Friday, March 29, 2019

Good Question That

"There's nothing to win by this sort of an outcry..." Be that as it may, 'who says it's good to be alive' remains a valid question. This nihilistic, bohemian punk anthem from Richard Hell's legendary Blank Generation debut is too short to even feature a trademark Robert Quine barbwire guitar solo, but that's the only beef I have with it. Now do the perpetual jive, y'all.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Who Says?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Get This Far

Far from their humble Leeds postpunk origins, the new Mekons album was recorded in the desert near Joshua Tree, hence the lonely title. Good to find that Jon Langford and co are still going strong since starting out in that magical year of 1977, that they're still in fine form, still rebellious, still full of adventure and wit.

Mekons - Andromeda

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Seeking A Star

Got the sad news yesterday morning that Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, has passed away. The man with the golden voice was 76. Starting out as a bona fide pop star with the Walker Brothers, he made what is arguably his masterpiece with the lush Scott 4 in 1969, to drift more and more towards the avant-garde from the eighties on, creating some heavy but always rewarding and very original albums in the process. Miss him.

Scott Walker - Rhymes Of Goodbye

Monday, March 25, 2019

Killed Me

Soul diva Bettye in action. You Don't Know Me At All opens with the biggest blues cliché imaginable, but hang on a sec: things will get better. "You took my breath away, now I want it back..." Now we're talking.

Bettye LaVette - You Don't Know Me At All

Friday, March 22, 2019

Good Question That

Staying in '79 a little longer with Derry's finest. Ever since Alexander Graham Bell invented the dog and bone, kids the world over have been asking the question Feargal Sharkey poses here. Few will have matched the pure urgency in his voice though. "Do it, do it, do it, do it..."

The Undertones - You've Got My Number (Why Don't You Use It?)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Catchy Indeed

Currently enjoying Jonathan Coe's very British and wickedly funny recent novel Middle England. In it, one of the book's protagonists talks to a journalist about his love for quirky seventies Canterbury Scene ensemble Hatfield and the North. "For instance, on their first album there's a piece called Aigrette, which was written by the guitarist, and if you listen carefully, not only is the time signature changing every few bars, but it goes through these extraordinary modulations, these key changes, and yet the tune is really catchy, really attractive on the ear..." Listen for yourselves.

Hatfield and the North - Aigrette

Monday, March 18, 2019

Wave Goodbye

Just got the sad news that Dick Dale has left us. The legendary king of the surf guitar, a pioneer of the Fender Stratocaster, was 81. Miss him.

Dick Dale - A Run For Life

Friday, March 15, 2019

Good Question That

Going warp factor 2 today with the Spizz consortium. Never was much of a trekkie, but of course one doesn't have to be a fan of Spock & co to enjoy this whimsical British new wave wonder from '79. John Peel called it 'the only Star Trek tribute worthy of the Enterprise's jukebox' and as usual, the legendary dj was spot on. "The time warp in space made a change in me, for I was the captain and the captain was me..."

Spizz Energy - Where's Captain Kirk?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Take Them Home

Released last week on what would have been the late great's 75th birthday, these recordings from a '73 session in Atlanta prove a treasure trove for Townes fans. Not bootlegged before as far as I know, Sky Blue provides a mix of known classics, rare covers and even two fine unknown originals, with the unnecessary productional flourishes so often found on his regular studio albums mercifully absent. Good times indeed, my amigos da musica.

Townes Van Zandt - All I Need

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Happy Times Together

Just got the sad news that Hal Blaine has passed away. The master drummer, part of the famous Wrecking Crew, was 90. He sat behind his kit on more great songs, the small selection below among them, than you can possibly imagine. Miss him.

The Crystals - He's A Rebel
Jan & Dean - Dead Man's Curve
Nancy & Frank Sinatra - Something Stupid
The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
Simon & Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy In New York
Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman

Monday, March 11, 2019

Suomi Calling

Yet another new band begging to be checked out further, and not only because the charming Leaves ends with some genuine bird song. Kiki Pau's got that certain je ne sais quoi, if you follow my drift. The mighty 22 Pistepirkko will always remain my fave Finnish combo, but these new kids from Helsinki are contenders for sure. Fresh pop for now people: hurraa!

Kiki Pau - Leaves

Friday, March 8, 2019

Good Question That

Let's start off a new mini-series with one of the eternal questions. Blind Alfred Reed posed it back in 1929, and it's as relevant now as it ever was of course. One of the first protest songs, too: "We can hardly get our breath, taxed and schooled and preached to death..." Hard times and a deadpan delivery. Ry Cooder would revisit this song 4 decades later, and Bruce Springsteen would add his two cents after 77 years, but this version remains the real deal.

Blind Alfred Reed - How Can A Man Stand Such Times And Live?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lucky Star

Peter Hammill all inspired by an old Dylan classic? Sure seems like it. An intense performance this, proving that Mr. Van Der Graaf hasn't lost that magic touch. "And just like that, she's gone..."

Peter Hammill - Girl To The North Country

Monday, March 4, 2019

Born To Roam

Growing old gracefully. Michael Chapman's warm and wistful True North features youngster Steve Gunn as a second guitarist, which only goes to show the British folk septuagenarian still has his finger on the pulse. And their interplay sounds lovely of course. Nothing more to give? Don't you believe it. Chapeau.

Michael Chapman - Full Bottle, Empty Heart

Friday, March 1, 2019

Break It Up

Currently reading Wayne Kramer's funky autobiography The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities. Here's a cool anecdote on the Motor City's finest recording Skunk, one of their hottest tracks. For the horn part, the band invited trumpeter Charles Moore, who wrote a chart and brought some jazz cats along to play it. As Kramer tells it: "The engineer and I were alone in the control room. 'Look, Wayne,' he said conspiratorially, 'I hear what you guys are going for, but these guys aren't cutting it. They're playing the wrong notes. I could bring in some union guys after the session to play this stuff right, in one take.' The engineer was old school, and couldn't hear what Charles had written. The parts weren't traditional harmony, they were written to be dissonant. We wanted biting, extended chords, and that was exactly what we were getting from the musicians. (...) I thanked the engineer for the suggestion and went back to work. The track came out marvelously..." Amen to that, brother Wayne.

MC5 - Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)