Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Donner, On Blitzen...

...but never on smack. I usually avoid christmas songs like the plague, but I´ll make an exception for Martin Mull. "That´s right boys and girls, Santa Claus turns on in his own way..." This whacky ditty stems from Cough Syrup For Elvis Impersonators, a hilarious compilation in the Wavy Gravy vein. Hard to find, but well worth it.

Merry Xmas and a happy new year, readers. I´m off to sunny India tomorrow. Can taste them hot curries and cold Kingfishers already. Back in 2010, with lots of goodies.

Martin Mull - Santa Doesn´t Cop Out On Dope MP3

Monday, December 21, 2009

There Were Moments When

The past...

"Past... well now, let me tell you about the past,
The past is filled with silent joys and broken toys,
Laughing girls and teasing boys,
Was I ever in love? I called it love... I mean, it felt like love,
There were moments when, well, there were moments when..."

This is such an amazing, weird song... In 2 minutes and 44 seconds the writers trio of Jerry Leiber, Arty Butler and Shangri-Las discoverer/producer Shadow Morton manages to conjure up a mysterious mini-opera in three parts. The song´s clever arrangement winks at classical music, setting the perfect scene for leadsinger Mary Weiss´s close-to-tears, spooky spoken vocals, which alternate from the - almost - resigned to the downright desperate.


"Go out with you? Why not...
Do I like to dance? Of course...
Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to,
But don't try to touch me, don't try to touch me,
Cause that will never happen again...
Shall we dance?"

What´s going on here? Just when you thought this was just another song about a past romance gone wrong, the ´don´t try to touch me´ line hints at something darker, something far worse and traumatic. Rape maybe? And that´s probably one reason why the Shangri-Las, undisputed queens of melodrama, never scored a big hit with this ´66 masterpiece, as they did before with predecessors like Leader Of The Pack and Give Him A Great Big Kiss.

The future...

"Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow´s a long way off...
Maybe someday I'll have somebody's hand,
Maybe somewhere someone will understand,
You know, I used to sing - a tisket a tasket a green and yellow basket,
I'm all packed up and I'm on my way and I'm gonna fall in love,
But at the moment it doesn't look good,
At the moment it will never happen again...
I don't think it will ever happen again..."


The Shangri-Las - Past, Present And Future MP3

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ramblin´ Bonny

"My hat don't hang on the same nail too long,
My ears can't stand to hear the same old song..."

Now we´re talking. After the somewhat lackluster crooning of Beware, Will Oldham returns to form in the dying days of 2009 with a mighty fine live registration. Funtown Comedown (vinyl and download only for some reason) is credited to Bonny - with an y this time around - Billy & The Picket Line, and features the lovely Cheyenne Mize on shared vocals. The Picket Line is a bluegrass band from Oldham´s hometown, whose loose and ramshackle sound brings out the best in the Louisville Lion.

Funtown Comedown features delightful new takes of some old Palace and Bonnie Prince Billy classics like Ohio River Boat Song and a wonderful The Glory Goes/Wolf Among Wolves medley, plus fun covers of songs by Ralph Stanley and Merle Haggard. Now I don´t know what attracted Oldham to Haggard´s Ramblin´ Fever in the first place, as the original is pretty much Hag by numbers, and features a rather corny sax to boot. But when the Picket Line gets a groove going and Billy starts whoopin´ it up, it suddenly makes sense.

"Ramblin' fever, the kind that can't be measured by degrees,
Ramblin' fever, there ain't no kind of cure for my disease..."

Bonny Billy & The Picket Line - Rambling Fever MP3
Merle Haggard - Ramblin´ Fever MP3

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ghulam´s Ghazals

When I was in India for the first time, which seems like ages ago, I just had to find me some Indian and Pakistani sounds. Basically raised on Dylan, the Stones and punk rock, I didn´t know anything about that kind of music back then, and hadn´t even heard of giants like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Sabri Brothers or Lata Mangeshkar yet. Someone back home had told me though that ghazals would probably appeal to me. No sitar doodlings going on for ages, but actual songs - poems set to music really - accompanied by traditional Indian instruments such as tabla, sarod and harmonium. And featuring great vocalists to boot. Needless to say, that sure got me curious.

At a cassette stand somewhere in the centre of New Delhi I asked the guy behind the counter what he could recommend and he immediately came up with a tape of Ghulam Ali. This what was I was looking for, no doubt about it. So I bought it of course. Cost me about a dollar, loved it ever since. Play loud, to dig that wonderful, deep, ´underwater´ tabla drum sound.

I´ll soon be back in India for a week, escaping a Christmas at home, and will surely go on another musical shopping expedition one afternoon. Here´s hoping I´ll bring some new exotic treasure home with me. Watch this space.

Ghulam Ali - Hum Tere Shahar Mein Aaye Hain MP3
Ghulam Ali - Kachi Deewar Hoon Thokar Na Lagana MP3

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Bird, Two Lists

If Americana, alt-country or whatever you may call it is your thing, do head over to the Bird List, where thirty of the ´web´s leading aficionados of twanglike music´ picked the best albums of the year. I participated as well, but my list didn´t make much of an impact on the final outcome I guess. Oh well. Maybe I´m just not twang enough.

For the record, here´s my personal top 15 of 2009 as submitted to the Bird List´s totally cool politburo. On the whole, I wasn´t too impressed with what I heard this year to be honest. Quite a few great songs, but not too many consistently great albums. Cool with me though, as that gave me the time to discover tons of amazing older stuff to keep me busy. More about that in a later post.

For The Sake Of The Song´s fave albums of 2009:

1. Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come
2. Bonnie Prince Billy & The Picket Line - Funtown Comedown
3. Bob Dylan- Together Through Life
4. Son Volt - American Central Dust
5. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - s/t
6. Molina & Johnson - s/t
7. Espers - III
8. Port O´Brien - Threadbare
9. King Creosote - Flick The Vs
10. Drive-By Truckers - The Fine Print
11. Iron & Wine - Around The Well
12. Simon Joyner - Out Into The Snow
13. Bowerbirds - Upper Air
14. The Western States - Bye And Bye
15. Magnolia Electric Co - Josephine

Which brings us to the moment you´ve all been waiting for: today´s soundtrack, featuring a few choice cuts from my personal hitlist.

Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2 MP3
Molina & Johnson - Twenty Cycles To The Ground MP3
Espers - Caroline MP3
Drive-By Truckers - George Jones Talkin´ Cell Phone Blues MP3
The Western States - The Water Remembers My Face MP3

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing About Nothing

"San Francisco´s fine.
You sure get lots of sun...
But I'm used to four seasons,
California's got but one."

Sometimes pleasant surprises come from an unexpected source. NCIS is some American tv series I´ve never heard of, but the freshly released soundtrack - NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack Vol. 2. - brings us a brand new old Dylan song: California.

California´s more or less a blueprint for what would eventually become Outlaw Blues, and was recorded at the sessions for Dylan´s landmark album Bringing It All Back Home in January ´65. The song was in circulation among collectors already, and although I´m not completely sure I guess this is a cleaned-up version thereof.

Anyway, it´s always nice to have one more Dylan song to listen to, but California hardly is Bob´s holy grail. Back then, at the top of his game, he could write a song like this in his sleep. Makes sense that he traded it in for the far superior Outlaw Blues, keeping only the closing verse:

"I´ve got my dark sunglasses
And for good luck I´ve got my black tooth,
Don't ask me nothin' about nothin',
I just might tell you the truth..."

Bob Dylan - California MP3
Bob Dylan - Outlaw Blues MP3

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ghost Ships

"Ghost ships are sailing on empty seas, the light in the darkness don´t shine on me..." As an addendum to last Thursday´s post, here´s another - and in my eyes even better - version of the Saints track Ghosts Ships. Found on Saints vocalist Chris Bailey´s first solo effort Casablanca (´83), and with a beautiful semi-acoustic guitar sound, it´s the same song under a different title: Wait Till Tomorrow. "So wait until tomorrow and we will see, I don't know about tomorrow..."

Chris Bailey - Wait Till Tomorrow MP3

And as a bonus, here are a couple more tracks from that slightly overlooked and long out of print album. Bailey trivia fact: although everybody thinks of him as a full-blooded Aussie, he was in fact born in Kenya and carries an Irish passport.

Chris Bailey - It´s Only Time MP3
Chris Bailey - Home Again MP3

Ok ok, here are some classic Saints tracks as well... No Time comes from their punky debut (I´m) Stranded, while Know Your Product (check out them horns) stems from follow-up Eternally Yours, and Temple Of The Lord from All Fool´s Day. "Drag out your chains, let's all be citizen Kane's, and go dance on the edge of disaster..."

The Saints - No Time MP3
The Saints - Know Your Product MP3
The Saints - Temple Of The Lord MP3

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ship Comes In

"A song will lift as the mainsail shifts...". As the final part of a triptych about the sea, here´s a six pack about ships. Again, picking only half a dozen songs wasn´t easy, but here goes.

Chris Bailey and his Saints were once known as a first generation punk band, but these Aussies were a great white soul combo all along of course. The blistering Ghost Ships is further proof of that theory. Meanwhile, John Cale gives new life to the old allegory of the Ship Of Fools. Find it on Fear, one of his stellar seventies albums.

Maki Asakawa is a Japanese artist I know nothing about really, but her jazzy Shipwreck Blues goes down a treat. As for David Ackles, he´s unjustly forgotten. Ballad Of The Ship Of State comes from his ´72 masterpiece American Gothic. "Is the ship going home? Will you take some old young men for crew?"

Tyler Ramsey´s contribution was part of last year´s impressive debut A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea. Hey Tyler, how about a follow-up dude? And for a closer, there´s Dylan´s majestic When The Ship Comes In. This piano-driven version stems from The Bootleg Series 1-3 treasure trove. "And the sun will respect every face on the deck... the hour that the ship comes in."

The Saints - Ghost Ships MP3
John Cale - Ship Of Fools MP3
Maki Asakawa - Shipwreck Blues MP3
David Ackles - Ballad Of The Ship Of State MP3
Tyler Ramsey - Ships MP3
Bob Dylan - When The Ship Comes In

Monday, December 7, 2009

Songs Of The Sea

"Bring me song of the sea... sing me a song of the sea." After a sailor´s theme, a six pack of songs about the sea is so obvious I almost opted out in the end. But as there are simply too many great songs inspired by the briny, I had no choice really. Selecting six beauties out of a truckload of candidates was hard enough. Here´s the ones that made the cut.

Robert Wyatt´s contribution stems from his terrific Rock Bottom album. "You look different every time you come from the foam-crested brine, it's your skin shining softly in the moonlight... partly fish, partly porpoise, partly baby sperm whale..." Great stuff. Postrockers avant la lettre Codeine succeed in matching the rhythm of the waves, while freakfolkers Tunng are stuck in the big city, transistor radio buzzing, longing for the sea.

Iggy finds himself in the service of the bourgeoisie and threatens to jump into The Endless Sea. A gem from New Values, his last really good album. The protagonist of the Hüskers´ classic punk opera Zen Arcade finds himself at a desolate shore. "The waves kept on repeating, each one crashing to the shore, and my footprints nowhere leading, as they disappeared once more..."

And last but not least here´s Sandy Denny again, this time making an appearance with the great Fotheringay. "Sea flows under your doors in London town, and all your defences are all broken down... you laugh at me on funny days, but mine's the slight of hand... don't you know I am a joker, a deceiver? And I'm waiting for the land."

Robert Wyatt - Sea Song MP3
Codeine - Sea MP3
Tunng - Song Of The Sea MP3
Iggy Pop - The Endless Sea MP3
Hüsker Dü - Standing By The Sea MP3
Fotheringay - The Sea MP3

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Sailor´s Life...

 is a merry life. That fado about Portuguese sailors in the post below made me think of other songs about that romantic but slowly disappearing profession. So while it seems that everybody else is busy blogging Christmas ditties (I won´t, promise...) here´s a six pack of delicious sailor songs for you. All hands on deck, lift the anchor, and hoist the main sail. The Titanic sails at dawn.

The alternative bluegrass trio Bad Livers tells all about Pee Pee The Sailor, in a hilarious Butthole Surfers cover. Anyone got the original btw? Never could track it down. Sandy Denny shines in Fairport Convention´s beautiful lament A Sailor´s Life, and master picker Leo Kottke finds a sailor´s grave in the strangest of places.

The Detroit Cobras do the marinero rock, while Tim Buckley goes way out there with some stellar vocal improvisation on Starsailor. Bob Dylan, in a rare live performance from ´92, relates of a female sailor. "In her jacket blue and trousers white, just like a sailor neat and tight, the sea, it was the heart's delight, of the female rambling sailor..." Heave ho!

Bad Livers - The Adventures Of Pee Pee The Sailor MP3
Fairport Convention - A Sailor´s Life MP3
Leo Kottke - The Sailor´s Grave On The Prairie MP3
Detroit Cobras - Hey Sailor MP3
Tim Buckley - Starsailor MP3
Bob Dylan - Female Rambling Sailor (live in Perth ´92) MP3

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Affectionate Tides

Time for something a little different now: the fado of Portugal. Beautiful, timeless music. The special kind of sadness (a.k.a. saudade) that´s inherent to the genre never fails to move me, especially when Amália Rodrigues is behind the microphone. Amália (1920-1999) was the undisputed queen of fado, or in Portuguese, rainha do fado. An amazing singer, she laid down the rules that modern fadistas still respect today.

Here´s a selection of some of her best songs, including my personal favorite: the rather upbeat yet still vaguely melancholic Fado Marujo. For those who´ve never been to beautiful, ramshackle Lisbon: the Madragoa, Bairro Alto and Alfama mentioned in the lyrics are old city quarters.

"Chega a Lisboa, salta do barco num salto,
Vai parar à Madragoa ou então ao Bairro Alto,
Entra em Alfama e faz de Alfama o convés,
Há sempre um Vasco Da Gama num marujo Português...
Sempre que passa um marujo português,
Passa o mar numa ameaça de carinhosas marés..."

Which roughly translates as:
"He arrives in Lisbon, hits the quay in one jump,
He´ll end up in Madragoa or later in the Bairro Alto,
Goes to the Alfama and pretends the Alfama is his ship´s deck,
There´s a Vasco Da Gama in every Portuguese sailor...
Every time a Portuguese sailor passes by,
the sea passes with a threat of affectionate tides..."

Amália Rodrigues - Fado Marujo MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Coimbra MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Fado Malhoa MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Céu Da Minha Rua MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Fado De Adica MP3

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


To celebrate my beloved Barça’s´s impressive 1-0 win in yet another steaming edition of El Classico last night, I proudly present... the cool ruler. Here´s to Puyol, Valdez, Ibra and the rest of the squad. "Extra classic that´s what you are..."

Gregory Isaacs - Extra Classic MP3
Gregory Isaacs - Classy Dub MP3

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sun Shines Down On Carlisle Wall

It´s no big step from Joanna Newsom to Alasdair Roberts. They´re labelmates on Drag City, pals with and championed by Bonnie Will Oldham and they both operate in what some people call the freakfolk genre. The former Appendix Out vocalist is a lot less freaky than Newsom though, preferring a more traditional approach to folk. And that´s cool, too.

On my fave album of his for instance, the Scotsman shows a lot of reverence for ye olde ballads he takes on. Following in the footsteps of Shirley Collins, Planxty and Nic ´Penguin Eggs´ Jones, there´s not a trace of postmodern irony here. Tastefully and sparsely instrumentated in a no-frills Oldham production, No Earthly Man simply sounds pure and timeless. For proof, listen to the beautiful infanticide ballad The Cruel Mother, starring Isobel Campbell on cello and John McCusker on fiddle amongst others. "And the lion shall be lord of all..."

Alasdair Roberts - The Cruel Mother MP3

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Better Late Than Never

"There's a bell in my ears,
There's a wide white roar,
Drop a bell down the stairs,
Hear it fall forevermore..."

The coin suddenly dropped. People had been telling me for ages I´d love Joanna Newsom´s Ys album, but I never quite got it. And I honestly don´t know why, but yesterday night I easily connected the dots from Memphis Minnie to Billie Holiday to Karen Dalton to Sandy Denny to Patti Smith to Lydia Lunch to... Joanna Newsom, and it all made sense somehow.

"Then I hear a noise from the hull,
Seven days out to sea,
And it is the damnable bell!
And it tolls - well, I believe, that it tolls - it tolls for me!
And it tolls for me!"

Joanna Newsom - Sawdust & Diamonds MP3

Sunday, November 22, 2009


To paraphrase Steve Earle´s famous remark on Townes Van Zandt: Will Oldham aka Bonnie Prince Billy is one of the greatest modern-day musicians around, and I´ll stand on Beck´s coffee table in my Onitsuka Tigers and say that. But hey, he´ll probably agree.

Anyway: Bonnie Prince Billy will soon release his second album of the year, and that´s great news. Entitled Funtown Comedown, and available on vinyl and as a download only, it´ll feature a mix of Bonnie classics and covers performed live with Louisville locals The Picket Line. So you´d better hoof it pronto to these fine folks over at Drag City, one of my fave record labels for well over a decade now, as they´ve got an exclusive track not on the album available for free download. You´ll be amazed by the remarkably loose and upbeat sound I guess. Very promising.

While we´re waiting, here are some fun guest appearances of the prolific lion of Louisville. Covering a Buck Owens tune with Susanna, building bridges with Angie Hart, hiphopping with Sage Francis, going ambient in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson, doing the lofi with the Sundowners, or comforting Scout Niblett: it´s all good.

Bonnie Prince Billy & Susanna - (I´ll Love You) Forever And Ever MP3
Angie Hart - Little Bridges MP3
Sage Francis - Sea Lion MP3
Valgeir Sigurðsson - Evolution Of Waters MP3
Sundowners - Turkey Vulture MP3
Scout Niblett - Comfort You MP3

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Can Hardly See In Front Of Me

The pure beauty of Robert Wyatt´s wavering tenor taking on Chic´s At Last I Am Free is something to behold. Can I get a witness? I´d sure like to testify.

Robert Wyatt - At Last I Am Free MP3

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Keep On Dubbing

Dread at the controls taking over... High time to dub it to the top here a bit. One of my fave musical genres, dub basically means stripped-down, instrumental versions of regular reggae songs. Featuring heavy, heavy bass, snippets of vocals, and tons of added sound effects. From echo, tape delay and reverb to animal sounds, ringing telephones, crying babies, gunfire and blaring sirens... Everything goes really, just as long as it pleases Jah.

The legendary Osbourne Ruddock alias King Tubby remains the undisputed master of dub, but other producers such as Lee "Scratch" Perry, Joe Gibbs, Erroll Brown, Herman Chin Loy and Keith Hudson - to name but a few - mixed some mean ones too in their time. And the realization that all these amazing tracks were made with rather limited means, as Jamaican studios didn´t exactly feature state of the art equipment, makes their soundboard wizardry all the more impressive.

The players vary, but often feature reggae revolutionaries Sly Dunbar on drums and Robbie Shakespeare on bass. Without further ado, here´s a well charged dub ten pack for all you brethren out there. No recent stuff here mind, all strickly roots, ´cause that´s the way I like it. Seen?

Herman Chin Loy - Jah Jah Dub MP3
King Tubby - Satta Dread Dub MP3
Augustus Pablo - Keep On Dubbing MP3
Aggrovators - Rockers Almighty Dub MP3
Upsetters - Black Panta MP3
The Revolutionaries - M.P.L.A. MP3
Joe Gibbs & The Professionals - Freedom Call MP3
Vital Dub - Roof Top Dub MP3
Keith Hudson - Black Right MP3
Scientist - Babylon Fight Dub MP3

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Know He Let You In

"I was sitting around the other day, tapping my feet,
A publication came to my door, said you´d died and gone to sleep...
But I couldn´t shed a tear I never knew you well..."

A moving elegy from Minutemen successors fIREHOSE on the death of blues singer extraordinaire Elizabeth Cotten. Haven´t a clue why Mike Watt & co spelled her name wrong btw. Anyone?

"...But I´m missing you just the same,
Libba please rest easy down on Chestnut Street..."

fIREHOSE - In Memory Of Elizabeth Cotton MP3

And then there´s the object of their admiration herself: Elizabeth ´Libba´ Cotten (1895-1987). Lefthanded and self-taught, she held her guitar upside down, playing the bass lines with her fingers and the melody with her thumb: the Cotten picking technique.

"When I die Lord bury me deep,
Way down on old Chestnut Street,
So I can hear old Number 9 as she comes rolling by..."

Elizabeth Cotten - Freight Train MP3

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Insurrection And Sex

Confidential 1-A: Director´s Eyes Only. Speaking: Director Hoover, Special Agent Dwight C. Holly.

JEH: Good morning, Dwight.
DH: Good morning, Sir.
JEH: Before you ask, the answer is yes. Expedite Operation Baaaad Brother in the manner you described in you memo.
DH: Thank you, Sir.
JEH: The title possesses a sublime jungle quality. As in "That brother John Edgar Hoover, he baaad."
DH: You are baaad, Sir. And I might add "inimitably so."
JEH: You might, and you should. And, on the topic of jungle artistry, I heard a very disquieting song on the radio this morning.
DH: Yes, Sir.
JEH: It was called "The Tighten Up". A negro ensemble named Archie Bell and the Drells performed it. The song carried the air of insurrection and sex. I´m sure white liberals will find it authentic. I told the Los Angeles SAC to open a file on Mr. Bell and to determine the identity of his Drells.
DH: Yes, Sir.

From the new James Ellroy book I just can´t put down. Blood´s A Rover indeed.

Archie Bell & The Drells - Tighten Up MP3

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We´re Comin´ To Get You

As a rule, I´m not much of a Zappa fan. Too many virtuoso guitar solos for my liking, too much of that pseudo neo-classical Edgar Varèse stuff. And although humor certainly belongs in music, Frank can often make you overdose. Sometimes you can´t help but love the guy though. Cue Flakes, from his ´79 album Sheik Yerbouti. Its vivid description of Union-protected ´handymen´ out to get you never fails to bring a smile to my face.

"All what we got here is American made,
It's a little bit cheesy but it's nicely displayed,
Well we don't get excited when it crumbles 'n' breaks,
We just get on the phone and call up some flakes,
They rush on over and wreck it some more,
And we are so dumb they're linin' up at our door..."

Everytime there´s somebody over at our place to fix the telephone line or the plumbing, I´m away humming this tune within seconds. "You can stab 'n' shoot 'n' spit, but they won't be fixin' it..."

Bonus points go to guitarist Adrian Belew for his really funny Dylan persiflage, harp and all. Take it away, Bob...

"I asked as nice as I could,
If my job would somehow be finished by Friday...
Well, the whole damn weekend came and went, Frankie,
And they didn't do nothin',
But they charged me double for Sunday..."

Frank Zappa - Flakes MP3

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wavy Gravy

If wild novelty songs from the fifties and early sixties are your thing, the Wavy Gravy series is the one to get. The two volumes (For Adult Enthusiasts and Four Hairy Policemen) contain a truckload of hilarious rockabilly and country ditties, interspersed with weird radio ads for obscure B movies. The joke tends to wear rather thin when you spin this stuff too often, but for the first couple of plays it´s a real hoot. All together now: "I started using L.S.D., it gave me quite a kick, better than booze and easy to use, but it made me mentally sick..."

Selvyn Cox - His Name Is Jesus MP3
Wendell Austin - L.S.D. MP3
The Leather Boy - On The Go MP3
Ding & Bat - Hearse On A Surfari MP3

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lift Us Up

"People don't you wonder,
how the lord has brought you under...
And demons lied I´m dreaming,
to the nakedness I´m scheming..."

Thanks to the power of iPod shuffle, I realised only yesterday night what a great song this actually is. I bought the fine Superwolf album - a collaboration with guitarist Matt Sweeney - when it came out a couple of years back, but this particular track never really jumped out to me until now. A sparse arrangement that´s just right, in comes Billy with a remarkably solemn vocal, and then the unsuspected hornyness of "and when I wrap around you, ain´t it wonderful I found you..."

"Oh and I...
Lift us up...
Lift us up...
Lift us up."

Bonnie Prince Billy - Lift Us Up MP3

As a bonus track, here´s a song from a brand new release by British folk musician Brian Harnetty called Silent City. Our Billy contributed vocals to a couple of songs, and with great results. Ambient folk for the now generation, or something like that.

Brian Harnetty feat. Bonnie Prince Billy - Sleeping In The Driveway MP3

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Roky´s Ghosts

If you have ghosts, you have everything... Halloween never interested me all that much, but it´s everywhere these days, so what can a poor boy do? Compile a halloween-themed Roky Erickson six pack for ya I guess...

So here goes. Featuring a zombie, a creature, some demons and ghosts, and last but not least a two-headed dog. "Winds quiet in the night, her body just blows messiah, sickening sweet sight left and right... is all right does not please my appetite..."

Right on Roky, right on.

Roky Erickson & The Aliens - I Walked With A Zombie MP3
Roky Erickson & The Aliens - I Think Of Demons MP3
Roky Erickson - If You Have Ghosts MP3
Roky Erickson - Creature With The Atom Brain MP3
Roky Erickson & The Aliens - Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog) MP3
Roky Erickson & The Aliens - Stand For The Fire Demon MP3

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fela Marathon

My new blogging colleague Fil over at Star Maker Machine took on a Fela Kuti track a few days ago as part of this weeks Ghosts and Zombies Halloween theme. The song in question - the well-known Zombie of course - is a real scorcher. As he writes: "Just about any '70s Fela will do, but if you can only have one of his songs, Zombie is the one to get".

I fully agree, but it got me to thinking about other Fela tracks I cherish. And as the Nigerian legend´s afrobeat is highly addictive, I found myself hosting a total Fela marathon last night. Good fun. And at last, I settled for the following three songs. First up is the ultra-funky Eko Ile from ´73: no wonder they sometimes call Fela the African James Brown. Next comes the jazzy No Agreement (´77), featuring Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie in fine form. And last but not least there´s the hypnotic Expensive Shit (´75).

The anecdote about the latter is too good not to relate briefly here: Nigerian cops once planted a joint on Fela, who immediately swallowed it to destroy the evidence. He was then kept in jail until he could pass the drugs from his system. Miraculously, nothing turned up when his fecal sample was sent in for analysis, as he got help from his fellow inmates. Looking at the costs of this farce, Kuti coined the phrase expensive shit. True story.

Fela Kuti - Eko Ile MP3
Fela Kuti - No Agreement MP3
Fela Kuti - Expensive Shit MP3

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hats Off

"When Charlie speaks of Lester, you know someone great has gone...
The sweetest swingin´ music man, had a Porkie Pig hat on..."

Here´s three versions of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, the immortal ´59 tribute to recently deceased tenor great Lester ´Pres´ Young by ´angry man of jazz´ Charles Mingus. The bassist´s original, which became a jazz standard over the years, simply flows and flows.

In ´68 British folk experimentalists Pentangle - featuring the dual guitar wizardry of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn - tackled the song with a totally different, all-acoustic approach. It remained jazz somehow though.

And Joni Mitchell even set Goodbye Pork Pie Hat to words in ´78 when she was collaborating with Mingus in what proved to be the last months of his life. "We came up from the subway, on the music midnight makes, to Charlie's bass and Lester's saxophone, in taxi horns and brakes..." Oh yes.

Charles Mingus - Goodbye Pork Pie Hat MP3
Pentangle - Goodbye Pork Pie Hat MP3
Joni Mitchell - Goodbye Pork Pie Hat MP3

And as a bonus, here´s Lester Young (1909-1959) himself. All dig the Pres.

Lester Young - Love Me Or Leave Me MP3
Lester Young - Red Boy Blues MP3
Lester Young - Gypsy In My Soul MP3

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Keep On Truckin´

I gotta admit I was a bit late in discovering the Drive-By Truckers. Guess people just plain forgot to tell me about them or something. And when I finally did wake up to these southern rebel rousers a couple of years back, they crept up on me only slowly. Haven´t got a clue to the why, but it took me a quite while to acknowledge that the Truckers are probably the finest American roots rock band since... well, Uncle Tupelo maybe?

For some reason, their music works especially well while driving. So if you´re going on a road trip today, just load the tracks below - five personal faves, all from different albums - in your iPod and see what happens. Happy trails.

Drive-By Truckers - The Three Great Alabama Icons MP3
Drive-By Truckers - Tornadoes MP3
Drive-By Truckers - Daddy Needs A Drink MP3
Drive-By Truckers - The Night G.G. Allin Came To Town MP3
Drive-By Truckers - Panties In Your Purse MP3

Monday, October 19, 2009

If The Rain Comes...

Winter´s coming... and me no like. After more than five months of sunshine, wearing shorts and flipflops at all times, it´s kinda hard to adjust. Today was the first day I had to put on my trusted leather jacket, while inside the heater had to be turned on again. Last Saturday, it proved still possible to enjoy lunch outside, in shirtsleeves while sporting sunglasses, but now the weather has definitely turned. Living in a mediterranean climate, it would be hard to maintain that it´s colder than a witch´s tit, or even a well digger´s ass out there, but it sure feels that way to me at the moment. Oh well, at least the mozzies are a goner.

Another drop in temperature is expected, and the weatherman says it´s going to pour tomorrow. Which gives me an excellent opportunity to provide you with a musical ten pack about the rain. I´ve left out the most obvious ones, so no Beatles (you´ll get a fun cover version though), Temptations or Ann Peebles this time around. Now where´s that umbrella again...

Meat Puppets - Look At The Rain MP3
Keith Hudson - In The Rain MP3
Beatle Hans & The Paisley Perverts - Rain MP3
The Velvet Underground - Hey Mr. Rain MP3
The Pogues - Rain Street MP3
Lonnie Johnson - Pouring Down Rain MP3
Townes Van Zandt - None But The Rain MP3
Prince Far I - Rain A Fall MP3
The Rising Storm - The Rain Falls Down MP3
Blacktop - I Think It´s Going To Rain MP3

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Faits Divers

No that´s not a new supergroup, it´s just French for odds and ends. Would make a good band name though... but anyway. Here´s a collection of assorted sounds that kept me busy over the last few weeks. Featuring amongst others the return of a former Joy Division and New Order stalwart, the post Pop Group postpunk-funk of Rip Rig & Panic, and some more happy Len.

First up is Bernard Sumner´s new band, named after a pretty good movie starring Harvel Keitel. Got this one in the mail and didn´t expect a lot of it to be honest, but Sink Or Swim proved to be a pleasant surprise. Hit!

Bad Lieutenant - Sink Or Swim MP3

Rip Rig & Panic rose from the ashes of The Pop Group, and featured wonderwoman Neneh Cherry on vocals. An impressive avant-garde funk ensemble, they had a way with wonderful song titles, and are now sadly forgotten. Their highly original ´81 debut God didn´t even get a cd release yet. And that´s just plain ridiculous.

Rip Rig & Panic - Those Eskimo Women Speak Frankly MP3
Rip Rig & Panic - Constant Drudgery Is Harmful To Soul, Spirit & Health MP3

Another postpunk gem I just can´t stop playing is I, Bloodbrother Be (£4,000 Love Letter) by the Shockheaded Peters. A dark and jazzy gay anthem that even caused a bit of a scandal back in the early eighties, my sweeties...

Shockheaded Peters - I, Bloodbrother Be (£4,000 Love Letter) MP3

Some dear friends of mine surprised me with a cd called La Cantina by Mexican/American singer Lila Downs recently, and I quite like her postmodern take on traditional Mexican fare. And hey, is that the mighty Flaco Jimenez on accordeon here? Yup. What´s more, he even wrote the song.

Lila Downs - Tu Recuerdo Y Yo MP3

Have also been on a total Bowie trip over the last few months. Used to be a huge fan, but can´t say I´ve given the Thin White Duke much thought over the last couple of decennia, probably because he never released an even half-decent album since Scary Monsters came out in ´80. His classic stuff still stands though, as I was glad to find out. Here he covers Jaques Brel. And he does that very well.

David Bowie - My Death MP3

As a Mountain Goats fan from stage one, I usually prefer their early lofi stuff to the more polished recent output. But the newly released The Life Of The World To Come has me converted. I repent, Mr. Darnielle, I repent. A masterpiece.

Mountain Goats - Matthew 25:21 MP3

Let´s end this mixed bag with the song I liked most from Leonard Cohen´s recent Barcelona concert. "I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn´t answered yet... But I hear him coughing all night long, a hundred floors above me in the tower of song..."

Leonard Cohen - Tower Of Song MP3

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pure Mountain Air

You can slowly feel the autumn coming on now in these parts and I almost immediately caught a cold like you wouldn´t believe. This afternoon´s garlic soup helped somewhat, but I could really do with some pure mountain air right now to clear the head.

As that´s not possible alas, let´s settle for some timeless tunes from the mythical mountains of Kentucky. These field recordings were made in ´59 by neo-folkie John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, and feature a bunch of old folks sittin´ on the porch in some backwood holler, pickin´ and fiddlin´ the time away, often performing traditionals some long-forgotten forefathers took with them on the boat over from the British Isles way back when.

If you´re into Harry Smith´s Anthology Of American Folk Music, you won´t be disappointed with the pureness of these tracks. Pay special attention to the amazing Mr. & Mrs. Sams: they do the greatest version of the oft-played Wagoner´s Lad I´ve ever heard.

Mr. & Mrs. Sams - The Wagoner´s Lad MP3
Roscoe Holcomb - Hills Of Mexico MP3
Bill Cornett - Pretty Polly MP3
Granville Bowlin - Wild Bill Jones MP3
James Crase - Fox Chase MP3

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Puzzled As The Oyster

"Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you hare when I was fox?
Now my foolish boat is leaning,
Broken lovelorn on your rocks..."

Tim Buckley´s immortal Song To The Siren is a classic you´re probably all familiar with. But have you ever heard the early solo take he performed in 1968 on the Monkees tv show? Do yourselves a favour, it´s a twelve-string diamond. Note that the lyrics differ slightly: "I am puzzled as the oyster" later became "I'm as puzzled as the new born child", allegedly because singer Judy Henske, married to Buckley´s producer Jerry Yester, laughed out loud at the original line. I see her point...

As a bonus, there´s the lush studio version released two years later on the Starsailor album. Anyone know why this masterpiece has been out of print for ages btw? And last but not least check out the remarkably tasteful eighties cover by goth forerunners This Mortal Coil, which even managed to spawn a Buckley revival of sorts.

Tim Buckley - Song To The Siren (solo) MP3
Tim Buckley - Song To The Siren MP3
This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren MP3

Friday, September 25, 2009

Down On The Farm

"The cows bawl, the pigs bawl, the horses bawl, too..." Over lunch yesterday, my 8 year old daughter told me that she wanted to live on a farm when she would finally be all grown up. Far from the madding crowd, surrounded by nature and with all kinds of animals to tend to. For some reason, this totally made my day.

Little Feat - Down On The Farm MP3
The Kinks - Animal Farm MP3
The Bently Boys - Down On Penny´s Farm MP3
The Carolina Tar Heels - Got The Farm Land Blues MP3
Gary Higgins - Down On The Farm MP3

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lenny Tonight

Going to see a true legend in concert tonight. Leonard Cohen´s in town and we´ve got tickets, 12th row centre stage no less. Added bonus: it´s happy Len´s 75th birthday. Got quite a scare this weekend when it was reported that Cohen had fainted because of food poisoning during last Friday´s Valencia gig, but apparently all is right again. Just a bad prawn or mussel in his paella... Guess it´s going to be an intense evening. Groomed my goatee already... now where´s that black turtleneck sweater?

To celebrate all this, here´s some wonderful live Lenny from back in the days. Chelsea Hotel #2 and Story Of Isaak were recorded at the famous Olympia Theatre in Paris in 1976. Avalanche and Joan Of Arc (a fine duet with Julie Christensen) stem from a show at the Congresshalle in Zurich in 1993. "I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best, I can't keep track of each fallen robin..."

Leonard Cohen - Chelsea Hotel #2 (live Paris ´76) MP3
Leonard Cohen - Story Of Isaak (live Paris ´76) MP3
Leonard Cohen - Avalanche (live Zurich ´93) MP3
Leonard Cohen - Joan Of Arc (live Zurich ´93) MP3

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two From Frederick

"Trouble, you can´t fool me, I see you behind that tree..." I wrote a piece about Ry Cooder´s fine cover version of Trouble, You Can´t Fool Me on the Groover´s Paradise blog recently. Check it out, it´s still up. Had to admit I´d never heard the original by an Alabama soulman called Frederick Knight, who recorded it as Trouble for the mighty Stax label back in the early seventies. But I finally managed to track down a copy and it´s easy to see why Cooder picked it. Man, that choppy guitar is funky.

And maybe even better is another Frederick Knight song I found while I was at it. You´re probably familiar with I´ve Been Lonely For So Long because of Mick Jagger´s interpretation on his solo album Wandering Spirit from ´93. Knight´s version is the real deal though. "Just can´t seem to get ahead in life, nothin´ I do ever turns out right, won´t somebody help me please..." They sure don´t come any sadder than this one.

Frederick Knight - Trouble MP3
Frederick Knight - I´ve Been Lonely For So Long MP3

Monday, September 14, 2009

Married Man´s A Fool

"Ever since you walked right in, the circle's been complete,
I've said goodbye to haunted rooms and faces in the street,
To the courtyard of the jester which is hidden from the sun,
I love you more than ever and I haven't yet begun..."

Thanks for that, Bob, could not have said it any better myself. As it happens to be my - umpteenth - wedding anniversary today, here´s a tenpack of songs about that weird phenomenon called marriage. Married man may be a fool, Ry, and granted Tom, I do indeed have to ask permission when I want to go out fishin´, but that´s cool with me.

"And I could never let you go, no matter what goes on,
'Cause I love you more than ever now that the past is gone..."

Ry Cooder - Married Man´s A Fool MP3
Bob Dylan - Wedding Song MP3
Tom Waits - Better Off Without A Wife MP3
George Jones & Tammy Wynette - Golden Ring MP3
David Bowie - Be My Wife MP3
Blind Willie Reynolds - Married Man Blues MP3
Freda Payne - Band Of Gold MP3
Jimi Hendrix Experience - 51st Anniversary MP3
Replacements - You´re Getting Married MP3
Moby Grape - Gypsy Wedding MP3

Friday, September 11, 2009

Enthusiastic And Likable

Back from my hols, but not really full of inspiration yet to be honest. Still in a laidback, beach bum kinda mood, you know how it is. But I can´t resist to draw your attention to some very interesting reading material in today´s edition of British newspaper The Observer. In a piece called The Thrill Of It All, novelist and music lover Nick Hornby stands up for music bloggers everywhere. Take notice, The Man, as the Arsenal-crazy writer of High Fidelity and About A Boy presents some serious arguments in favour of the likes of us...

An excerpt: "It took me longer than it should have done to work out that the internet is one giant independent record shop – thousands and thousands of cute little independent record shops, anyway – and they don't actually charge you for the music they stock. The MP3 blogs that stretch for miles and miles, as far as the eye can see, down that stretch of the net that isn't reserved for pornography, are staffed by enthusiastic and likable young men and women who absolutely don't want to rip the artists off: they are always careful to post links to iTunes and Amazon, and the songs they put on their sites are for sampling purposes only. (...) It works for me. I listen, and then I buy what I like, because owning music is still important to me". Right on bro! Read the full article here.

As a soundtrack to all this, here´s some stuff that might just be up mr. Hornby´s alley. Or yours for that matter. Featuring something old (the mighty Sonny Rollins), something new (a fresh ditty by the David Wax Museum), something borrowed (a crazy cover by Japrockers the Golden Cups), something blue (´Jesus, this is Iggy...´). And Brian Ferry & co of course. Oh, the thrill of it all...

Sonny Rollins Quartet - The Most Beautiful Girl In The World MP3
The David Wax Museum - Jalopy Heart MP3
Golden Cups - Hey Joe MP3
Iggy Pop - Turn Blue MP3
Roxy Music - The Thrill Of It All MP3

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

R&R Time

"Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum,
The sun is out and I want some..."

That´s right pop kids, the summertime blues ends here. It´s about time for some Rest & Recreation, and I aim to be king of the surf for a while. So we´ll be heading south soon, for even better climes than we´ve got here. Got over 8000 songs with me on the iPod, all killer no filler, so the Rock & Roll bit is well taken care of, too. Hope to be back all inspired in a couple of weeks. Hasta luego!

Blue Cheer - Summertime Blues MP3
Trashmen - King Of The Surf MP3
Ramones - Rockaway Beach MP3

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thieves Of Fire

Yes, and here we go again. Another summer tenpack, this time featuring nothing but British postpunk from the late seventies and early eighties. Arguably one of the most interesting periods in the history of pop music, as creativity was running rampant and boundaries were few.

Fall head honcho Mark E. Smith tells it like it is, with a nod to the summer of love:
"Stuck peanuts in my hair, and all the leaves are brown...
I'll be part of the music scene, envy of the choosy set, part of the music scare..."

Instant hits all of them, albeit in a parallel - and better - world. If you like what you hear and haven´t read it yet, head over to your local bookshoppe and pick up Rip It Up And Start Again by Simon Reynolds, a most inspiring standardwork on the postpunk genre.

The Fall - Music Scene MP3
Magazine - Back To Nature MP3
Cabaret Voltaire - Do The Mussolini (Headkick) MP3
Slits - Instant Hit MP3
The Pop Group - Thief Of Fire MP3
A Certain Ratio - Choir MP3
Young Marble Giants - Wurlitzer Jukebox MP3
Gang Of Four - Armalite Rifle MP3
Delta 5 - Mind Your Own Business MP3
Basement 5 - Heavy Traffic MP3

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Absent Slide

Think of Duane Allman and the first thing that comes to mind is slide guitar, right? Probably followed by motorcycle crash and huge sideburns, but that´s beside the point here. Funny thing is, that famous slide is absent on the only song that ole Skydog ever wrote himself: Little Martha. An acoustic ode to an extramarital girlfriend who was actually called Dixie, it´s a deceivingly simple instrumental. And a timeless miniature.

Duane Allman - Little Martha MP3

Friday, August 7, 2009

Garageland Dreams

In yet another summer tenpack episode, we´ll be going all out on a wild sixties garage punk and psychedelica trip. Better get ready for an overload of razor sharp organ riffs, down and dirty fuzz guitars, snotty vocals, over the top psychedelic madness & teenage angst plus a whole lot of garage attitude. Hey, there´s so much amazing stuff in this vein out there that I could easily fill twenty sixpacks for you. And maybe I just will... someday.

All this amazing stuff stems from albums and sometimes even series of albums with illustrious names like Pebbles, Boulders, Back From The Grave, Highs In The Mid Sixties, Ear Piercing Punk, Hang It Out To Dry and Acid Dreams. Do yourselves a favour and hunt these down if you like the ten more or less obscure garage bands from sixties garageland below. Be sure to have some peanut butter ready, watch out for that green slime, and say hi to Gloria Melvin for me.

The Renegades- Thirteen Women MP3
White Light - William MP3
Kommotions - Little Black Egg MP3
The Ju-Ju´s - You Treat Me Bad MP3
Daybreakers - Psychedelic Siren MP3
The Belles - Melvin MP3
The Outlaws - Don´t Tread On Me MP3
Green Slime - Green Slime MP3
Avengers - Be A Caveman MP3
The One Way Streets - We All Love Peanut Butter MP3

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Johnny Foreigner

Read in the paper today that the country of Latvia is totally sick of having its capital Riga invaded by young British tourists on a cheap and boozy rampage. Which made me think of comedian - and one time Factory Records cohort - John Dowie´s rather weird little ditty from ´77. Uz veselibu!

John Dowie - British Tourist MP3

Upper Air

This summer tenpack edition is all about cool new music I recently stumbled upon. Some I found on other music blogs, some I actually bought. In record stores. Ain´t that something this day and age, pop kids.

Most of these tracks were released over the last couple of weeks, while others will come out very soon. A few acts featured here are rather well known, while others have either been working under the radar a bit or are brand new hopefuls, waiting for a bit of fame (what´s my name) to come their way. Please check ´em all out and if you like what you hear, buy their albums at your local record store. If it´s still in business, that is.

Son Volt - Roll On MP3
Simon Joyner - The Drunken Boat MP3
Roadside Graves - Far And Wide MP3
Bingo Trappers - Stranded On A Short Break MP3
Spiral Stairs - Maltese T MP3
Jack Oblivian - Against The Wall MP3
Bowerbirds - Beneath Your Tree MP3
Greg Weeks - Lay Low MP3
Frankel - Anonimity Is The New Fame MP3
Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band MP3

Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Outer Space

The Salford Bard. Also known as the first poet of punk. Manc accent, sharp suit and a great Blonde On Blonde do.

John Cooper Clarke set some great poetry to music, with legendary Factory Records producer Martin Hannett supervising and the Invisible Girls providing musical backup. Check out Beasley Street or Evidently Chickentown for proof.

But here´s some of his earlier solo stuff. Strictly stand-up poetry, no musical accompaniment. Recorded live at the Electric Circus in Manchester, on October 2, 1977, at the height of punk. Cracks me up every time. "I´ve seen our democracy is under duress, but I never get a nipple in the Daily Express..." Ta!

John Cooper Clarke - (You Never See A Nipple In The) Daily Express MP3
John Cooper Clarke - I Married A Monster From Outer Space MP3

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Da Bomb

Yo, homies... Here´s another summer tenpack comin´ at ya, straight from the boon dox this time. Which means it´s the For The Sake Of The Beats edition tonight, with a fine selection of HipHop tunes I think are da bomb. And as it just dawned on me that most of this stuff is really rather old, wouldn´t it be nice if any readers of this blog could recommend me some more recent HipHop in the same vein as the tracks below? Much obliged.

Gang Starr - Suckas Need Bodyguards MP3
Genius/GZA - Cold World MP3
Nas - N.Y. State Of Mind MP3
EPMD - Boon Dox MP3
Boogie Down Productions - My Philosophy MP3
Raekwon - Criminology MP3
Paris - Break The Grip Of Shame MP3
Jeru The Damaja - Brooklyn Took It MP3
Dr. Octagon - 3000 MP3
Common - Payback Is A Grandmother MP3