Monday, March 31, 2008

Faster than lightning

The best punk/hardcore album of all time? Beastie Boy Adam Yauch says so on the back of the CD re-release of the Bad Brains´ first album and I can´t say I disagree. With the hardcore part that is. As for punk there´s quite a few contenders out there, but Bad Brains makes classic hardcore outings by bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys or MDC sound rather tame in comparison, and that´s saying something...

Bad Brains were unique in many respects. They were four black rastas operating in a dominantly white musical genre. They alternated ferocious, ultrafast punkrock with remarkably convincing rootsreggae tunes (check out I Luv I Jah to see what I mean). They played their instruments very well; guitarist Dr. Know (née Gary Miller) even came from a jazz-fusion background. He formed the band in Washington DC in ´79 after hearing the Pistols and the Clash, never forgetting his loyalty to Marley and co. Metal riffing and furious and freaky guitar solo´s completed the musical menu on their first album, originally released in ´82 on the cassette-only ROIR-label.

And then there´s singer H.R. (Paul Hudson, the initials stand for Human Rights). Not only has he got an amazing voice and a diction all of his own, he´s got the ability to sing faster than lightning as well. Just try to sing along to Pay To Cum to see what I´m getting at. I´ll give you a hand with the lyrics: "I make decisions with precision, lost inside this manned collision, just to see that what to be, is perfectly my fantasy". Told you you couldn´t do it...

Bad Brains made a couple of good albums later on (Rock For Light from ´83 and I Against I from ´86 stand out), were an influence on countless other bands, fell apart, played under the name of Soul Brains without H.R. and reunited last year with a Yauch-produced cd that was quite ok. But they never could match the sheer brilliance they displayed on their debut. Brace yourself and enjoy ´that attitude...´

Bad Brains - Sailin´On MP3
Bad Brains - Attitude MP3
Bad Brains - I MP3
Bad Brains - Pay To Cum MP3
Bad Brains - I Luv I Jah MP3

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tibetan grab bag

Well, not really. I mean, if you expected to find some Tibetan music here I´m sorry to disappoint you. I don´t even own any Tibetan music as far as I know. I´d merely like to dedicate this version of Friday Grab Bag to the Tibetans who are currently protesting the Chinese occupation of their country, contrary to their non-violent religious beliefs. That takes guts, right? Not that it´s going to happen, but a boycott of these outmoded Olympics would be a grand gesture to a people struggling to keep their culture alive, and a rigid digit in the face of a perfidious regime.

Well, now that´s off my chest let´s hear it for some tunes. What caught my fancy this week? Got the new Raconteurs for you, a rare track by Jonathan Richman, and two versions of the great traditional Canadee-I-O. Om mani padme hum, as they say in Lhasa and environs.

Let´s get going with the Flamin Groovies, a sadly forgotten rock ´n´ roll band from San Francisco. In their late sixties/early seventies heyday they sounded and looked rather out of place among the hippies, who didn´t really appreciate their lowdown dirty sound. The Groovies even moved to the UK in ´72 because they had a much bigger following in Europe. The compilation Groovies´ Greatest Grooves (Sire) is an exemplary document to their greatness.
Flamin Groovies - Teenage Head MP3

Let´s rock out some more why don´t we. You probably know by now that the Raconteurs have a new album out, as the ads are everywhere. I loved their debut, and I must say I often prefer the Raconteurs to Jack White´s other band. From the songs I´ve heard so far Consolers Of The Lonely (XL/Warner) is another fine effort, although the more Zeppelinesque excursions manage to irritate me as much as on the first album. But maybe that´s just me, as everybody and their dog seems to like Zep these days.
The Raconteurs - These Stones Will Shout MP3 (deleted on request of our pals at Warner Brothers)

Time to lower the tempo now. Last week I posted the original Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood duet Sand here, and tonight I just have to play you this amazing cover version by German noisemeisters Einstürzende Neubauten. Blixa Bargeld sings/whispers it like an old pervert and plays a mean solo, while the rest of the band merrily bangs away on their custom built oildrums. Find it on Halber Mensch (Some Bizarre ´85).
Einstürzende Neubauten - Sand MP3

Yesterday´s Modern Lovers track made me hungry for more. Jonathan Richman´s slightly nasal voice never ceases to amaze me. No one sounds as pure and innocent as Jonathan can. Hey There Little Insect comes from a rare acoustic bootleg called Living Room Demos, also known as the Solo Acetate. It was recorded late ´73 or early ´74 in - you guessed it - Jonathan´s living room. I do hope some record label (Rounder perhaps?) will put this out officially sometime. "Hey there, little potato bug..." Great stuff.
Jonathan Richman - Hey There Little Insect MP3

"She´ll never see that seaport town, called Canadee-I-O..." A beautiful traditional in a honoured line of songs about girls going out to sea dressed as men to follow their true loves. British folkie Nic Jones recorded it for his exquisite Penguin Eggs album (Topic ´80), and Bob Dylan allegedly used Nic´s arrangement for his own version on Good As I Been To You (Columbia ´92). It´s fun to compare the two. My verdict: Jones wins on guitar, Bob on vocals.
Nic Jones - Canadee-I-O MP3
Bob Dylan - Canadee-I-O MP3

We´re signing off tonight with some sonic mayhem from Jimi Hendrix. Machine Gun (from Band Of Gypsys, MCA ´70) speaks for itself I guess. "I ain´t afraid of your mess no more baby". Free Tibet!
Jimi Hendrix - Machine Gun MP3

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where are they now pt. 2: the Real Kids

I was playing that great Real Kids debut just now and found myself wondering about the current whereabouts of the band members. Bassist Alpo Paulino died two years ago, so that one´s easy, but what´s become of drummer Howard Ferguson, guitarist Billy Borgioli and especially frontman John Felice? Are they pumping gas somewhere in Jersey, having a ball in their native Boston or are they down and out somewhere in the Bowery? Are they still playing music even? I hope someone will be able to fill me in, because that selftitled album from early ´78 is a nearly forgotten gem that´s dear to my heart.

Bostonian John Felice was a childhood neighbour and pal of Jonathan Richman, and was in and out of the Modern Lovers several times. You can hear him play guitar on The Mixer (Men & Women Together), a live track recorded sometime around ´71-´72 at Harvard University of all places. Some time later Felice formed his own band the Real Kids, and recorded a sparkling single (All Kindsa Girls b/w Common At Noon), soon followed by that excellent first album. The great cover photo was shot by legendary New York CBGB´s scene photographer Roberta Bailey, who clearly must have been inspired by the Stooges debut.

With Felice´s trademark snotty vocals and his knack for writing infectuous melodies they should have hit the jackpot, but strangely enough the record didn´t sell at all. Maybe due to the tiny Red Star label that released it? Drug problems? Plain bad luck? It did manage to give the band a cult status in France and Italy for some reason, but that wasn´t enough for the original line-up to stay together for long. Felice worked as a roadie for the Ramones for a while, then got back into playing and recording with the Taxi Boys, some new versions of the Real Kids and after a long hiatus with the Lowdowns.

The last couple of years it´s been quiet. I remember reading about an Italian fan and promotor who tried to organise a reunion tour quite recently, but gave up in disgust after Felice´s so-called junkie behaviour thwarted his plans time and time again. You can buy the reissue of The Real Kids on the great Norton label.

The Real Kids - All Kindsa Girls MP3
The Real Kids - Common At Noon MP3
The Real Kids - My Baby´s Book MP3
The Real Kids - Taxi Boys MP3
The Modern Lovers - The Mixer (Men & Women Together) MP3

Monday, March 24, 2008

He´s real...

Since I got loads of positive reactions to a recent post on the Louvin Brothers, here´s another installment about my favorite country brother team. And as it´s Easter Monday, what else can I do but put the spotlight on their amazing gospel album Satan Is Real? Released in ´59, it´s their concept album avant la lettre about the everlasting rivalry between God and the Devil, or - as the liner notes put it so enthusiastically - a personal crusade against the Prince of Darkness. The album sleeve is an amazing classic: Ira and Charlie are pictured in their white Sunday suits on a pile of blazing rocks, the red silhouette of Satan towering in the background. The plywood Lucifer was built by Ira himself by the way. The photoshoot took place in a rock quarry, and the duo barely escaped serious injury when the kerosine-soaked rocks got so hot they blew up and red hot fragments started flying around.

The music is just as great as the cover shot and sounds as fresh as if it was recorded yesterday. Thanks to a full band, the sound is a bit more robust than on your average Louvins session, with the subtle gospel organ being an especially nice touch. Ira´s mandolin isn´t in the foreground as much as usual, but when you do hear him it´s a treat.

The material is a mix of original compositions and covers, and it´s all killer. No mean feat in a time when most artists were still single minded and regarded their albums merely as a showcase for a couple of their hits, extended with substandard filler. The Louvins´ trademark harmonies are incredible throughout, with Are You Afraid To Die being a perfect example of the voices of the two brothers blending together perfectly. The same goes for The Drunkard´s Doom, a heartbreaking tale that becomes a bit poignant when you consider Ira himself had a drinking problem as big as Jack Daniel´s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The idea behind the title song came from firsthand experience. Ira and Charlie once attended a country church somewhere in Alabama, when an oldtimer stood up in the middle of the service and started preaching just like Ira does here. "It´s sweet to know that God is real... but Satan is real too!"

The Louvin Brothers - Satan Is Real MP3
The Louvin Brothers - Are You Afraid To Die MP3
The Louvin Brothers - The Drunkard´s Doom MP3

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter grab bag

Back to the grind with another version of Friday nite grab bag, after a few days in chilly Amsterdam with old friends, animated conversation, good food and way too much to drink. Here are some great songs that assaulted my eardrums during the past week. Guaranteed: no ditties about bunnies or eggs. Instead you´ll get two great duets by the daughter of Ol´ Blue Eyes, a singer/songwriter turning anarcho punk into campfire singalongs and a new Triffids reissue. Happy easter, folks.  

While in Amsterdam, I got a great Nancy Sinatra album I had previously overlooked somehow from a friend. Thanks again! It´s one of these albums you expect to hate at first glance because of a formula that hardly ever works: a more or less forgotten singer is surrounded by contemporary admirers. On Nancy Sinatra (Sanctuary records ´04) the plan succeeds for once though, mainly because the songs are so good. My current favorite track is the one Nancy recorded with Jon Spencer of Pussy Galore and Blues Explosion fame. Spencer plays the Lee Hazlewood-role with gusto. But even he can´t better these old Nancy & Lee duets, as a golden oldie like Sand (´67) clearly shows.
Nancy Sinatra - Ain´t No Easy Way MP3
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - Sand MP3

Ramones tributes are a specialty of mine. The ones I like most don´t only sound like the Ramones, but namecheck da Brudders as well. Johnny And Dee Dee by the Australian band The Eastern Dark (´85) is a good example. Watching a Ramones video makes the singer completely forget his girlfriend for a while. "They´re my heroes in life, and they´re there to take me high..." Rightly so. The Badtown Boys from California recorded their furious ode to Dee Dee in ´91. I saw them live once and they had the look down pat: leather jackets, sneakers and ripped jeans. One two three four... 
The Eastern Dark - Johnny And Dee Dee MP3
Badtown Boys - Dee Dee Took The Subway MP3

Singer/songwriter and comic artist Jeffrey Lewis achieved the impossible. He just recorded an acoustic Crass cover album, and guess what? It works. And it´s big fun, too. For the uninitiated: Crass was one of the most uncompromising punk collectives of the late seventies. They lived in a commune, preached anarchy and did everything themselves. Their music was anything but pretty, but New Yorker Lewis proves on the aptly titled 12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade) that it´s possible to turn their slogan-songs into folky campfire singalongs. Comparing the Crass originals (this one´s from their ´78 debut The Feeding Of The 5000) with the cover versions is priceless.
Jeffrey Lewis - Do They Owe Us A Living MP3
Crass - Do They Owe Us A living MP3

I´ve complimented Domino Records before in these pages on the excellent job it´s doing with the Triffids´ back catalogue. Their newly released Beautiful Waste And Other Songs (Mini Masterpieces 1983-1985) is another goodie. It compiles early singles, ep´s and mini albums like Field Of Glass and the great Raining Pleasure. St James Infirmary has been covered by many, but I´ve always had a weak spot for the Triffids´version.
The Triffids - St James Infirmary MP3

"If memory serves we´re still on a break." Art Brut´s ode to a first love always brings a smile to my face. "I haven´t seen her in 10 years, 9 months, 3 weeks, 6 hours, 13 minutes, 5 seconds..." I do believe the guy is still in love. With Emily Kane. Find it on Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Fierce Panda ´05).
Art Brut - Emily Kane MP3

Let´s close Easter proceedings with one of these heartbreakingly beautiful songs by the late great Townes Van Zandt. This blog isn´t called For the Sake Of The Song for nothing, if you know what I mean... "We´ve got the sky to talk about and the world to lie upon". To Live Is To Fly is from the mighty High, Low And Inbetween album (´72).
Townes Van Zandt - To Live Is To Fly MP3

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hank´s alter ego

Hank Williams is unanimously recognized as a true American icon, the father of country music as we know it today. Hank is often said to have been the first rock ´n´ roller too, thanks to his hard drinking, pill popping lifestyle which would ultimately kill him at the age of 29 in the back of his ´52 Cadillac, on the way to a gig in Canton, Ohio.

It´s lesser known that ole Hank also recorded under the pseudonym of Luke The Drifter, which gave him the chance to be the exact opposite of his larger than life public persona. Where Hank was the Grand Ole Opry star with the wild reputation, Luke was righteous, religious, wise and moralistic. Now Williams simply couldn´t release these specific songs under his own name. Jukebox operators, who were very important for record sales in those days, serviced bars and saloons and didn´t want their customers - aiming for a soundtrack for a good time - punching up a Hank Williams record and getting a sermon instead of a honky tonkin´ country song. So either Hank himself or his legendary producer Fred Rose invented the alter ego Luke The Drifter.

And boy, did Luke record some great stuff. More narrations or even sermons than actual songs, it´s hard to believe this is a guy still in his twenties talking. On Men With Broken Hearts Hank reportedly said "Ain´t that the awfulest, morbidest song you ever heard in your life?" and he may just have been right. "Some lose faith in love and life when sorrow shoots her darts, and with hope all gone they walk alone, these men with broken hearts..." The Funeral may not sound very politically correct to modern ears, but it´s still the tearjerker to end all tearjerkers. The legend goes both Hank and his steel guitarist Don Helms had tears in their eyes by the time they were through recording it... So get your hankies ready and buy Hank´s complete Luke The Drifter-output on the cd Beyond The Sunset (Mercury records).

Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter - Pictures From Life´s Other Side MP3
Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter - Too Many Parties And Too Many Pals MP3
Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter - The Funeral MP3
Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter - Beyond The Sunset MP3
Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter - Men With Broken Hearts MP3

Friday, March 14, 2008

Grab ´em while you can

Got that grab bag fever again. I guess you know the score by now: every Friday night here at For The Sake Of The Song - trademark of quality etc. - you´ll get a mixed bag of songs I really liked over the past week. All genres go. Old or new, slow or fast... there are no boundaries. One thing you can be sure of though: they´re all goodies, so grab ´em while you can. Tonight´s issue features a blues about astrology, the version of Hey Joe that Jimi probably based his classic performance on, while we also celebrate St. Patrick´s Day a few days in advance. Cheers!

Let´s begin with a fairly recent song. I don´t really know a whole lot about David Karsten Daniels to be honest. Originally from North Carolina, he relocated to Seattle a while back to enjoy the weather there. His most recent outing Sharp Teeth (Fat Cat records) is a sparse but subtly arranged piece of work you should definitely check out. I´m already looking forward to his new album Fear Of Flying, which will come out this April if all goes as planned.
David Karsten Daniels - Jesus & The Devil MP3

I generally prefer my blues acoustic, but every once in a while the electric kind moves me as well. Especially when it´s on the legendary Stax label. Born Under A Bad Sign was written for Albert King by organist Booker T and soulsinger William Bell. In the words of the latter: "I said, hey, we´ve never had a blues song done about astrology. I got this idea that might work." It did. They made a demo which sounded so good all King had to do was overdub his vocals and guitar. "If it wasn´t for bad luck, I wouldn´t have no luck at all..."
Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign MP3

It is said that Jimi Hendrix based his arrangement of Hey Joe, the song that kickstarted his career, on the version obscure singer/songwriter Tim Rose recorded for his self-titled debut album in ´67. Others claim that Jimi adapted westcoast band Love´s version though. In my opinion a case can be made for both options, and sadly it´s too late to consult the voodoo chile himself. All I can say is I really like this one. More on Tim Rose and the amazing song Morning Dew in a future post.
Tim Rose - Hey Joe (You Shot Your Woman Down) MP3

As its Paddy´s Day soon, let´s put some Irish stuff in the mix. I´ve lived on the Emerald Isle myself for over four years, and had a wonderful time altogether. It rained a lot, but then again it never rains down the pub, as the local saying goes. Boy, do I miss that Guinness on draft. Here are the Pogues with their classic Sally MacLennane. "Well Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born..." Find it on Rum Sodomy & The Lash (´85).
The Pogues - Sally MacLennane MP3

Let´s stay in Ireland for a while and listen to Van The Man. He may be a grumpy old bastard, but what a voice. This is an acoustic demo of the song that would later end up on his wonderful Moondance album. Oh, the water. Let it rush all over me. By the way, for more Irish tunes be sure to drop by at the wonderful Setting The Woods On Fire and Cover Lay Down blogs. You won´t regret it.
Van Morrison - And It Stoned Me (acoustic) MP3

It´s closing time already, and what better way to call it a day than with The Valentinos. It´s All Over Now is so familiar in the Stones´ version you´d nearly forget Mick & co only covered it. The Valentinos wrote and cut the song for Sam Cooke´s SAR records in ´64. The Rolling Stones, magpies that they are, released their version so fast it kicked the original right out of the charts, much to singer Bobby Womack´s chagrin at the time. But I guess the royalties that came in year after year must have mellowed him out a bit in the end.
The Valentinos - It´s All Over Now MP3

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Children of the American bop night

The 12th of March happens to be both the day jazz innovator Charlie Parker died (in ´55) and the day beat writer and Parker fan Jack Kerouac was born (in ´22). Now I could go on and on here about Parker´s pioneering work on the saxophone, or analyse the way Kerouac´s prose style was influenced by bop rhythms, but that´s all been done before. So here´s a a fitting fragment from Kerouac´s magnum opus On The Road for you instead, followed by some of my fave Parker tunes, Kerouac reading some great prose, and Tom Waits and Willie Alexander paying homage to the father of beats. Go Jack, go.

"Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and logic and subtlety--leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother's woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest - Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonius Monk and madder Gillespie - Charlie Parker in his early days when he was flipped and walked around in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can't feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night."

Charlie Parker - Yardbird Suite MP3
Charlie Parker - Parker´s Mood MP3
Charlie Parker - Confirmation MP3
Jack Kerouac - San Francisco Scene (The Beat Generation) MP3
Tom Waits - Jack & Neil/California, Here I Come MP3
Willie Alexander - Kerouac MP3

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sonic acoustic

I have to admit I hesitated quite a while before buying Thurston Moore´s Trees Outside The Academy. I didn´t like his first solo outing Psychic Hearts (´95) much and my fave Sonic Youth albums (Evol and Daydream Nation) weren´t exactly made yesterday. But in the end, the idea of an acoustic Thurston Moore proved too interesting to give Trees Inside The Academy - released late last year on his own Ecstatic Peace! label - a miss.

And I´m glad I didn´t, as it´s fun to hear the famed noiseguitar experimentalist mellow out on acoustic guitar. Here Thurston forgets Glenn Branca or Keiji Haino for a moment and moves straight into Bert Jansch or Nick Drake territory. With help from SY drummer Steve Shelley and Samara Lubelski on violin he creates a sparse folky setting on most songs. The duet with Christina Carter (of a band called Charalambides, unknown to me) on Honest James is my current favorite, but Silver>Blue, The Shape Is In a Trance, Never Light and Fri/End are close behind.

The few songs that do try to be more experimental don´t really work: American Coffin for instance is not much more than a great songtitle, and we can do without the artwank of Free Noise Among Friends. Closer Thurston@13 is a soundscape the New Yorker recorded at his mom´s house when he was thirteen years old - funny for one listen only. But as the rest of the material is so surprisingly strong I don´t think anyone will complain. And for those of you who still crave Sonic Youth in full noise mode, I´ve added Death Valley ´69 (from Bad Moon Rising, ´85) and the amazing Expressway To Yr Skull (from Evol, ´86) for your listening pleasure too.

Thurston - Honest James MP3
Thurston - Silver>Blue MP3
Thurston - Fri/End MP3
Sonic Youth - Death Valley ´69 MP3
Sonic Youth - Expressway To Yr Skull MP3

Monday, March 10, 2008

Waiting for a train

A mallard is both a species of duck and a make of steam locomotive. The short-lived band Mallard probably named itself after both, as there´s a flock of ducks flying over a train on the cover of their fine self-titled first album. Mallard started out as an offshoot of Captain Beefheart´s Magic Band. Unsatisfied - and rightly so - with the quality of the Beefheart-album Unconditionally Guaranteed, guitarist Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo) and bassist Mark Boston (aka Rockette Morton) decided to form their own ensemble. John French (aka Drumbo) joined as well, but went back to Captain Don Van Vliet before things really got underway. Art Tripp (aka Ed Marimba) was recruited on drums, one John ´Rabbitt´Bundrick on keyboards and as a vocalist they found Sam Galpin, a guy who had last played piano in a Vegas casino and hadn´t even heard of the Magic Band.

The first Mallard album was financed - pay attention rock trivia freaks - by none other than Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Magic Band fan and friend of Mark Boston. It was released by Virgin in ´75 and has a surprisingly rootsy feel. But although there´s no avant garde à la Trout Mask Replica present here, the unique way of playing that Beefheart taught his disciples always shines through. Harkleroad´s guitar work is especially fine throughout, and their respectful take on Guy Clark´s beautiful Desperados Waiting For A Train works wonders.

Also covered is Beefheart´s guitar miniature Peon (the original can be found on Lick My Decals Off, Baby). It´s credited (duck joke alert!) to Donald Van Vliet. Beefheart called Mallard a bunch of quacks though... Follow-up In A Different Climate was released in ´77 with new guys on drums and ivory. It´s got some fine tracks (opener Green Coyote for instance) but overall it lacks the drive of the debut. Shortly after Mallard disbanded due to lack of succes, but Mallard and In A Different Climate (buy them both on one cd on Virgin records) prove they were more than just a footnote in Beefheart history.

Mallard - Back On The Pavement MP3
Mallard - Desperados Waiting For A Train MP3
Guy Clark - Desperados Waiting For a Train (live in Florida ´00) MP3
Mallard - Peon MP3
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band - Peon MP3
Mallard - Green Coyote MP3

Friday, March 7, 2008

Grab bag a-go-go

Time for another episode of grab bag. Every Friday you´ll get a mix of songs old and new that got me all excited during the past seven days. And that´s no mean feat I´ll tell you. This week´s batch includes the nearly forgotten folky Eric Von Schmidt, a fatal game of Russian roulette, some ´nederbeat´ from the Dutch Stones, and much much more. Enjoy the weekend!

Let´s start with a song that matches the weather here at the moment. After a nice week of false spring it´s mighty cold in the great city of Barcelona, with an icy wind blowing from the north. So "we sit and pray together that they may change the weather..." That´s Hüsker Dü of course, from their Warehouse: Songs And Stories album (´87). Bring on la primavera. 
Hüsker Dü - Ice Cold Ice MP3

Please mister record company man, do us a favour and finally release the first couple of albums by Eric Von Schmidt on cd. As Joshua Gone Barbados shows, his sixties folkblues still sounds fresh today. Giles Joshua was the president for the tiny Caribbean island of St. Vincent once upon a time by the way. He split for Barbados after a while, no doubt with government money in his pockets, leaving the country in misery. Bob Dylan did a take on this song too, with The Band during the Basement Tapes sessions in Woodstock. No strange choice, as Von Schmidt was an old pal. And since I´m such a nice guy, I´ll give you that version as well. 
Eric Von Schmidt - Joshua Gone Barbados MP3
Bob Dylan & The Band - Joshua Gone Barbados MP3

The Outsiders were more or less the Dutch Rolling Stones. Lying All The Time (´66) has an intro to die for, but it´s the unique vocals of singer Wally Tax - check out his English with an Amsterdam accent - that really steal the show. Collectors (especially the Japanese for some reason) were always paying top dollar for Outsiders vinyl, but since Bam Caruso released the excellent compilation Strange Things Are Happening everyone can enjoy their so-called nederbeat.
The Outsiders - Lying All The Time MP3

Time for some more modern sounds now. Brightblack Morning Light´s self-titled album (Matador records ´06) still makes my day every time I play it. Under the motto "it´s easy being green" these tree hugging, teepee dwelling neo-hippies came up with a highly original, organic and relaxed sound. This is my music to chill by.
Brightblack Morning Light - Star Blanket River Child MP3

Mose Allison is one of my favorite piano players. Is it jazz, is it blues, is it boogie? Who cares, it´s just Mose, doing his thing. If You´re Goin´ To The City is from The Best Of Mose Allison (Atlantic) and gives some great advice to all you country hicks planning to move to the big city.
Mose Allison - If You´re Goin´ To The City MP3

Last but not least here´s the late great Johnny Ace. This young soul singer was hanging around backstage at Houston´s City Auditorium on Christmas Day of 1954, waiting to go on, and decided it would be fun to play a game of Russian roulette. He first pointed the Colt 45 at his girlfriend and pulled the trigger. Nothing. Then he aimed at her friend, but again the revolver´s chamber proved empty... So he pointed it at himself and ended a promising career. You can find Never Let Me Go - and many other gems - on the Memorial Album compilation (Duke/MCA). And guess what, Bob Dylan performed this one too a couple of times, during his Royal Thunder Revue tour, duetting with Joan Baez. And as I´m getting nicer by the minute, I´ll include an example (recorded live in Augusta 26-11-´75) of that here too. 
Johnny Ace - Never Let Me Go MP3
Bob Dylan - Never Let Me Go (live ´75) MP3

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Love is a rose

Read a funny tidbit in the paper yesterday. A court in Iran ordered a man to give his lawful wedded wife the 124,000 roses that he promised in her dowry, after she filed a complaint to claim it.

The woman said she was claiming the dowry because her ´very stingy husband´ would not even buy her a cup of coffee. The court has seized the man's flat until he produces all of the roses. Under Iranian law, a woman can claim her dowry, or mahr, at any time during a marriage or when getting divorced. The gift becomes the property of the wife to do whatever she likes with. A long-stemmed rose costs about $2 in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Cool stuff, huh? I just hope the lady in question will do the right thing and donate her truckload of flowers to a city hospital. A good year for the roses indeed...

George Jones - A Good Year For The Roses MP3
Neil Young - Love Is A Rose (live ´76) MP3
The Damned - New Rose MP3
The Carter Family - Give Me Roses While I Live MP3
Elvis Costello - The Poison Rose (live ´95) MP3

Monday, March 3, 2008

Where are they now pt. 1: Gravel

A bands breaks up and its admirers are basically left with two questions. What happened? And: where are they now? Were there musical differences, or was it that they simply couldn´t stand each other any more after spending way too much time together in damp practice spaces and stinking hired vans with bald tires? Are they still making music, or have they given up on stoking the star-making machinery behind the popular song? Are they currently flipping burgers, selling insurance, workin´ for MCA or maybe even studying law?

I was thinking about all this when listening to my Gravel albums this afternoon. I´ve always treasured this fourpiece from Anacortes, WA, that only made two albums - both out of print alas, try Ebay - in its short career. Break-A-Bone (´92) and No Stone Unturned (´93) both feature dark and brooding rocksongs with loud, loud guitars. Think Screaming Trees, Wipers or a speeded up Crazy Horse. Their music for me conjures up desolate landscapes and long drives in the rain.

They recorded for Estrus records, a label better known for its sixties garage sound. Apart from the fact that their bassist was in a wheelchair, which you don´t see too often, I don´t really know much about them, so let´s proceed with the music. The first 3 MP3´s are from their wonderful debut Break-A-Bone, while the last 2 songs (including the Patti Smith cover Pissing In A River) are from the slightly lesser quality follow-up No Stone Unturned. And if you happen to read this guys, please write in and give me the lowdown ok?

Gravel - Stone Yard MP3
Gravel - As For Tomorrow MP3
Gravel - Halfway MP3
Gravel - Erase MP3
Gravel - Pissing In A River MP3

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Behind bars

Read an amazing news article yesterday. A recent study said that one in every 100 Americans are currently in jail. There are 230 million adults living in the Land of the Free, and 2.32 million of them are behind bars. For some groups this percentage is even higher: every one in 36 adults with a Hispanic background is doing time, and one in 15 black adults. Even worse: one in 9 black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are locked up as we speak. Staggering figures, right? Makes you think. But don´t worry, as a European I´m not going to judge. I´ll just play you some songs about life in prison...

Picking a Johnny Cash song wasn´t easy, as the man in black did quite a few jail songs in his time (and performed some legendary gigs in the slammer as well). I finally chose Doin´My Time, a Sun recording from the Walking The Line-box (Union Square). "They call me by a number not a name". Gregory Isaacs, the Jamaican nightingale, knows what it is to do time. Jailer Jailer Bring Me Water is from Extra Classic (´78). I have to do a post dedicated to The Mississippi Sheiks soon, as they never cease to amaze me. Jail Bird Love Song is to be found on the excellent Stop And Listen compilation (Yazoo). Choosing between Merle Haggard´s Mama Tried and Sing Me Back Home simply proved too hard. So you´ll get both; find them on The Lonesome Fugitive Anthology (Razor & Tie). I Fought The Law was made famous by the Bobby Fuller Four, but The Clash made it their own in ´78 on their The Cost Of Living ep. It was also added to the U.S. version of their classic debut album. The Blue Sky Boys are one of those classic country brother teams you often find me raving about in these pages. "I will scrub all your floors, I will wash all your clothes, if that will get my baby out of jail..." Hunt down the out of print Are You From Dixie? Great Country Brother Teams Of The 1930´s (RCA) for this gem.

Johnny Cash - Doin´ My Time MP3
Gregory Isaacs - Jailer Jailer Bring Me Water MP3
Mississippi Sheiks - Jail Bird Love Song MP3
Merle Haggard - Sing Me Back Home MP3
Merle Haggard - Mama Tried MP3
The Clash - I Fought The Law MP3
Blue Sky Boys - I´m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail MP3