Thursday, 25 March 2010

A handful of recent favourite finds

Over the past 2-3 weeks I've come across so many great albums that I feel a compelling urge to share my findings:

Richard Thompson - Mock Tudor (1999)

I've had Richard and Linda Thompson's I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight for several years now, but it was only recently I heard any of Richard Thompson's solo material. Crawl Back (Under My Stone) was the first track from the album I heard and after that I just had to go out and get a copy. The whole album is excellent, mixing blues and rock, and a healthy smattering of slower ballads.

John Cale and Terry Riley - Church of Anthrax (1971)

If I had heard any of the tracks from this album without knowing who recorded them and when, I would automatically have assumed they were reasonably recent. Firstly though I didn't know that John Cale and Terry Riley had ever collaborated as it seems like an unlikely partnership, and secondly the sound of this album from way back in 1971 is way ahead of its time.

John Cale and Lou Reed - Songs For Drella (1989)

The title of the album, Drella, is a combination of Dracula and Cinderella, and was recorded in dedication to the memory of Andy Warhol. Each track is outstanding and it's pretty hard to choose my favourite as I simly love each one I hear, whenever I hear it. Pretty sure all the tracks have come around on lasfm, but I'm still looking forward to the arrival of the CD, hopefully later this week.

Other recent finds worthy of mention include ...

John Cale - Paris 1919
Pere Ubu - Raygun Suitcase
Residents - Petting Zoo

Just need more time to listen to everything.

With an ever accumulating CD collection, inevitably some are set free to go to new homes. Follow the link to see a list of my records and CDs for sale

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Classic covers

Various musical listenings over the past few weeks and months have inspired me to write this particular blog entry. Whilst I'm very sure that the theme is not unique, perhaps my take on it will be.

I've decided to create a playlist on lastfm, and document here, what I refer to as 'classic cover versions'. Don't expect to see run-of-the-mill stuff here, the classic covers I refer to are for songs that mean something to me. So, let's get started ...

Actually I have just reaqlised I pressed the 'publish' button a little prematurely and some tracks do not have descriptions ... will look to address this soon.

The Damned - Looking At You

I can't quite remember where I heard this song but seem to have a memory of having it on tape, recorded from the John peel show in the late 1970's (subsequent internet research indicates it featured in a Peel session). I loved the track the moment I heard it but it was probably 20 years later that I eventually heard the MC5 original version from their classic 1970 album Back in the USA. Whilst some covers versions tend to polarise opinion, I'll have to give this one a the same score as I like both versions equally.

The Clash - Pressure Drop

Toot and the Maytals original version is, of course, excellent, but the Clash version of this track was one of the first real reggae tracks I had ever heard. It took a while for me to come to terms with the fact that reggae and punk could sit side-by-side in my record collection, but artists like the Clash made this possible.

The Clash - Police and Thieves

Another great Clash cover version. Junior Mervin's original is yet again another firm reggae favourite in this house.

Marc and the Mambas - Vision

I remember being blown away by the tracks on the first Marc and the Mambas album, particularly those which were cover versions. This cover of a Peter Hammill track is probably my favourite track on the their 1983, Torment and Toreros album. The influence that Peter Hammill had on Marc Almond is evident from the cover version, and again this is one where I like the original and cover equally, but thanks to this Marc Almond cover version I have built up a fair sized Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator collection.

Marc Almond - If You Go Away

Another Marc Almond cover version again in his Marc and the Mambas guise, covering a Jacques Brel track. This was probably my first exposure to Jacques Brel, and although Marc has covered plenty more in his time this is my favourite.

Marc and the Mambas - Caroline Says

The original version of this track comes from Lou Reed's bleak masterpiece, Berlin, from 1973. This cover version is another from Marc and the Mambas, this time from their Untitled album of 1982.

Stiff Little Fingers - Doesn't Make It Alright

The Specials

Manic Street Preachers - Working Class Hero

This was one of those tracks that I'd heard the name banded around for years, but the forst time I heard the song was as a cover version, first by the Manics, then Green Day. John Lennon .......

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Helter Skelter

This was one of the first Siouxsie tracks I heard after Hong Kong Garden, and had no idea at the time it was in fact a Beatles track. I like both versions but, probably due to my punk heritage, the Siouxsie version just pips McCartney at the post.

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Dear Prudence

The Mission - Tomorrow Never Knows

Another cover version of a Beatles song, this time by Sisters of Mercy offshoot, the Mission, covering Tomorrow Never Knows from the Beatles' 1996 album Revolver. Not necessarily the easiest or most obvious track to cover but I feel the Mission did it justice.

The Mission - Dancing Barefoot

Having been a Patti Smith fan for more years than I care to remember, I remember being somewhat sceptical when I heard that the Mission had recorded a cover version of her classic Dancing Barefoot track. However, my fears were unfounded as this is a superb cover version, working well both as a studio track and a live encore track when I saw them back in the late 1980's.

Dandy Livingstone - A Message To You Rudy

This was one of the reasons for compiling this playlist. I only heard this version in the past couple of weeks and must admit, somewhat ashamedly, that until then I thought The Specials did the original. Since I've been alerted to the error of my ways I've been listening to quite a few tracks by Dandy Livingstone and am very much likeing what I'm hearing.

Two Lone Swordsmen - Sex Beat

Psychic TV - Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun

The Jam - So Sad About Us

Cover versions were quite commonplace in the early days of the Jam, but this cover of Pete Townsend's track appeared on the b-side of their classic single, from 1978, Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, as a tribute to The Who durmmer, Keith Moon, who died earlier that year.

The Cramps - Psychotic Reaction

As usual, a list of records and CDs for sale cane be found on my web site.

Vinyl vs. the iPod ... and an excursion in to reggae and ska

Something I've only noticed since getting my new iPod is that it's been a long time since I've really played an album 'end-to-end'. With my previous iPod I deliberately set all modes to random play, and often listened to my own playlists rather than to whole albums. This was entertaining for a while and I often managed to confuse myself over which band I was listening to. It was also great at dinner parties where the guests would try and work out a track that is on the tip of their tongue.

However, with my new iPod, although not intentionally, I have left it at 'factory setting', which means I'm hearing the tracks of an album in the order in which they were intended. Spurred on by this I have recently made it a deliberate policy to listen to complete albums. The great thing about this is that not only am I hearing the tracks in the order as the artist would have wished, but I'm pretty sure I'm hearing some tracks for the very first time. Only this evening I was listening to Obscured By Clouds by Pink Floyd, whilst chilling in the bath after a hard afternoon's digging of the vegetable patch (hardly rock'n'roll, but I like it) and there were several tracks on the album which felt very new to me.

Thinking about this a bit more I do remember in the 'vinyl only' world of my youth, that not only did I know the order of the tracks on my favourite LP's, I also knew the length of the gap between each track. It's a bit sad to admit, but before the days of even the tape Walkman, I do remember during a two hour coach journey that I recited the entire All Mod Cons album by The Jam to myself to pass the time ... at least I hope it was to myself.

Before I sign-off for the evening, I just wanted to share that, in the words of Jessie from the Fast Show ... this week I have mostly been listening to reggae and ska. I don't know anywhere enough about the genre to pass any sensible comment, but I'm liking what I'm hearing. My excursion into reggae and ska started with tracking down the original versions of Clash covers like Pressure Drop and Police and Thieves, and pretty much expanded from there. Current favourites are Toot and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Max Romeo and Prince Buster. Obviously I'm only scratching the surface here so recommendations VERY welcome.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

How did I miss out on this band ...

It always amazes me just how many bands I completely missed out on during my formative years. Some are more obvious candidates who, although being regarded as 'seminal, 'classic' or whatever other terminology comes to mind, were making music before my time so I have an excuse for missing them. There are however plenty who were making music when I was listening to and reading about anything and everything to do with music, who just passed me by.

Fortunately help has been at hand over the past few years with the various internet radio stations. I've blogged about these guys before but the biggest surprise to me was Tuxedomoon. This band were definitely making records during my formative years but I completely missed out on them. Furthermore, I don't regard them as someone I would have heard at the time and dismissed, only appreciating them later ... I'm just pretty sure I'd never heard their material. Were these guys never played on John Peel? Having only discovered them a couple of years ago I'm making up for lost time and they are now my most played artist on The solo and collaborative material by two of their members, Steven Brown and Blaine L.Reininger is also really good and I probably have more of the solo material than releases by the actual band. If anyone wants a recommendation for a Steven Brown release, then I would start with his excellent Decade compilation and branch out from there.

Other groups which fall into the category of 'how did I miss out on this band' are The Sound, Mission of Burma and This Heat who I have only discovered through lastfm. These bands are always a pleasure to listen to whenevr they appear on lastfm, but as yet I've not felt compelled to get their albums.

Bands I missed out on who were active before I really got into music include The Residents. I have heard 30 or so tracks by these guys and everyone, no matter how quirky, sounds great. I do wonder though how I would fare listening to a whole album, end-to-end. If anyone has any suggestions which are the 'must have' Residents albums, please let me know.

Pere Ubu were a band whose name I'd heard but pretty sure that until recently I'd not heard any of their material. Again like the residents I have heard 30 tracks or so, but do not yet own an album. Looking at the albums which contain the tracks of their I like the most, it's liklely that Modern Dance and Dub Housing will be maing their way into my collection soon ... again more than happy to take recommendations.

What's more is that I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm very sure that there are hundreds of worthy bands out there just waiting for me to discover.

And finally a couple of artists that no matter how much other people rate them, and no matter how many times I listen to them, just don't do anything for me. These include Devo and Captain Beefheart. Captain Beefheart was a firm John Peel favourite which is usually a good recommendation. I've often found that music championed by John Peel that I didn't appreciate at the time improved with its and my age, and that I just didn't have the finely tuned musical taste buds that Peel had, but for me anyway, this is not the case with Captain Beefheart. Maybe there's a Captain Beefheart 'initiation album' that I'm somehow missing out on which will open the doors?

As always, plenty of records and CDs for sale on my web site.