Extra! Five Things I Loved This Year…

The Best Use Of An Unlikely Venue
Sam Amidon, Westminster Central Library. Turned into, variously, a New York avant-jazz Loft Space, a poetry workshop, a folk festival and a church.



This Table In Spain
Mark Ritter: Alter Muddy Water. Written by Lee Hazlewood. Heard once, thanks to YouTube, never forgotten (or, for that matter, ever want to hear again.)


This Guitar At The Christie’s Sale
Elvis’ Fender Jaguar, apparently.
Elvis Guitar


Favourite Acrobatic Moment From My Favourite Concert
The Webb Sisters’ astonishing backflip in the “Charlie Manson” verse of The Future, Leonard Cohen concert, Paris Olympia, where he played his greatest works [songs you’ve loved so long they’re almost part of your DNA] with his greatest ever band.




And At The End Of The Year, A Present
A Hollie Cole album is always a welcome addition to our household, and this December, an early Christmas present, Night. Standout tracks are stunning versions of If You Could Read My Mind and Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues, with glorious support from her original Trio, David Piltch on bass and Aaron Davis on piano.There’s a sadness in her voice that can’t be denied, but music this great always uplifts.

Oh, And Something To Look Forward To For Next Year…
The outrageous trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s version of Gatsby, featuring, as its soundtrack, No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West, Florence and The Machine’s Bedroom Hymns and—for its final, most hysterical third—Filter’s industrial version of The Turtles’ Happy Together. Sensational.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 19th December

Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
As we drove along Spain’s Costa Tropical, past the last remaining sugar cane factory in Europe, the sky turned orange and Blind Willie Johnson came on the CD player. I don’t really have the words to describe this performance, but it may be the loneliest sound ever committed to shellac. Driving as the sun fell it stilled the conversation. Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas is pretty much based around it. from wikepedia: In 1977 Carl Sagan and a team of researchers were tasked with collecting a representation of Earth and the human experience for sending on the Voyager probe to other life forms in the universe. They collected sounds of frogs, crickets, volcanoes, a human heartbeat, laughter, greetings in 55 languages, and 27 pieces of music on the Voyager Golden Record. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground was included, according to Sagan, because “Johnson’s song concerns a situation he faced many times: nightfall with no place to sleep. Since humans appeared on Earth, the shroud of night has yet to fall without touching a man or woman in the same plight.”


Tony Staveacre, Letter To The Guardian
“Ravi Shankar did a great kindness to a young television director in November 1968. The great man was performing a raga in the BBC Riverside Studios (behind the Hammersmith Odeon) to be broadcast as part of the trendy BBC1 pop series How It Is. The trainee director had told the recording engineer to load a 20-minute videotape—that’ll be long enough. But it wasn’t. A raga is an improvisation, unpredictable in content and length. So the tape ran out while the maestro was still playing. The director, close to tears, had to go down to the studio floor, apologise for his incompetence, and plead with the musicians, Would you mind doing it again? The response was a shrug, a beatific smile and: Of course we can – and it will probably be better this time. And it was. The director was fired shortly after that, by telegram. I’ve still got it.”

Wayne Shorter On The Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way Recording Session, Mojo Magazine
“When we recorded it [in February 1969] there were no written-out parts. Miles didn’t want to know what you were going to play. “Play music that doesn’t sound like music,” he once told me. It was to get you out of your comfort zone… if he heard someone practising, he’d say, “Don’t practice!” He told John [McLaughlin], “Play the guitar like you don’t know how to play the guitar.”

In Praise Of Sinead
Clearing the hard drive, I watch an episode of Later from a few weeks ago. Amongst the dreary hipsters (yes Foals, that’s you—the world doesn’t need a Prog-Rock-Slash-Funkapolitan in 2012—songs that want to be instrumentals but still seem to have words) and the old soulsters (Graham Central Station—Where’s Sly? We need Sly! Larry has a microphone attached to his bass by a gooseneck. We can see why this has never caught on. Awful bass sound. They forgot to bring a song) and the Primark Bonnie Tyler that is Ellie Goulding, there is Sinead O’Connor, She is singing Nothing Compares To You. She has a flaccid band (imagine her backed on this song by Marc Ribot and Jay Bellerose instead, for instance) and by rights the song should have been consigned to the I’ve heard it too many times—it has no power left pile in the corner. But. But. She is one of the great natural singers of our age. There’s not an unmelodic note. Hell, there’s not an unmelodic breath between the notes… She rips the bloody guts out of the song and leaves them on the studio floor, focused on extracting everything it has to give. And, even when it’s just her breath you’re listening to, she sounds like no-one else on earth, and that’s a rare, rare thing.

Blue Note? Is That A Code Name?
Ever see something that you wished you’d thought of?
And something that you know how hard it is to do well?
Take a bow, Ty Mattson at Mattson Creative.


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 12th December

Dave Brubeck, talking to Marian McPartland
…on her wonderful series, Piano Jazz, for NPR, about his great collaborator, Paul Desmond. “I loved listening to him, every night, and the humour—if he wanted to say something funny through the horn—would just break me up… If I did something wrong, that he didn’t like, he’d usually play I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande) because I was raised on a cattle ranch and he’d bring that up, musically. Or Don’t Fence Me In—anything that he didn’t like, that was going on, he’d play a quote to get you back in line. It was something that was always so funny, you’d laugh—you’d never take it too badly. He could tell a complete story in quotes of what just happened, his mind was so quick… [One night they had been] arrested for speeding on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, he did the whole story; of the arrest, where they went, all in tune titles. It was amazing…

[On playing a Country Fair and Horse Show] “A guy came up on the stand with spurs on and he drug them across the stage and he walked up to me and he said, “Tell the guy playing the traps [drums] that he’s spookin’ the horses…” and Paul was in hysterics, and when he started playing, he hit some high notes and all the chickens went crazy and started cackling…Paul was going to write a book [about all these tours] called How Many Of You Are There In The Quartet?”

What? What? What Am I Not Getting Here?
Mumford and Sons, Babel
@Big Boi (of Outkast) responds to a fan enquiring after his favourite non-hip hop album of the year.

Richard Thompson, New Album, Great Quote
Electric is produced by Buddy Miller at his home studio in Nashville, TN. “We did it ridiculously quickly. It was just stupid. But it sounds great. It turned out surprisingly funky, sort of a new genre—folk-funk. It’s quite snappy, somewhere between Judy Collins and Bootsy Collins.”

Tom Waits letter to The Nation, 2002, from Letters Of Note:
“Thank you for your eloquent “rant” by John Densmore of The Doors on the subject of artists allowing their songs to be used in commercials. I spoke out whenever possible on the topic even before the Frito Lay case (Waits v. Frito Lay), where they used a sound-alike version of my song Step Right Up so convincingly that I thought it was me. Ultimately, after much trial and tribulation, we prevailed and the court determined that my voice is my property.

Songs carry emotional information and some transport us back to a poignant time, place or event in our lives. It’s no wonder a corporation would want to hitch a ride on the spell these songs cast and encourage you to buy soft drinks, underwear or automobiles while you’re in the trance. Artists who take money for ads poison and pervert their songs. It reduces them to the level of a jingle, a word that describes the sound of change in your pocket, which is what your songs become. Remember, when you sell your songs for commercials, you are selling your audience as well…

Eventually, artists will be going onstage like race-car drivers covered in hundreds of logos. John, stay pure. Your credibility, your integrity and your honor are things no company should be able to buy.”

Tift Merritt’s Red Guitar, Later
Ooooooooh, that is one great guitar, a cherry red Gibson J-45, sweetly played and with a wonderfully soft & rounded tone…


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 5th December

This is the West, Sir. When the legend
becomes fact, print the legend.”
James Stewart as Maxwell Scott, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As I read Mojo’s obit of Terry Callier, the folk-jazz-soul singer songwriter, my heart sinks as the oft-retold story of his first album is reprinted—yet again. Lois Wilson writes: “The following year saw him team with Prestige producer Samuel Charters. The New Folk Sound should have seated him next to Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone, such was its innovative cross-fertilization of jazz, folk, soul, blues and civil rights, but it finally arrived without fanfare in 1968, after Charters went AWOL with the tapes to Mexico.”
Here’s Wikipedia: “He met Samuel Charters of Prestige Records in 1964, and the following year they recorded his debut album. Charters then took the tapes away with him into the Mexican desert, and the album was eventually released in 1968 as The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier.”
From The Guardian, Callier interviewed by Will Hodgkinson: “Callier recorded his album, The New Folk Sound, under the influence of Coltrane, using two upright basses and two acoustic guitars to create a unique sound. The record would probably have been a hit but for the fact that its producer, Samuel Charters, took the tapes of The New Folk Sound on a voyage of self-discovery into the North American desert, where he lived with the Yaki Indians for the next three years.”

I decide to do the journalistic thing and ask someone who was there.
Sam Charters: “There’s been so much confusion there’s no quick answer. I was doing a lot of Chicago folk artists for Prestige, and I heard Terry at a folk club. I talked to him about recording and then I went to his family’s apartment in one of the project buildings one evening and he sang his songs. Sweet family, and he was a very pleasant young guy.

When we came to the studio he had new ideas, and there were two bass players; one on either side of him but with wide distances between. Then he wanted to record in the dark. When we had to turn on the lights between takes to do adjustments I was sure the basses were creeping up on me. Then I did the usual editing and we had the usual Friday afternoon sales meeting at Prestige—the only time we saw Bob Weinstock [owner of Prestige], if he even turned up—and the sales manager said we had to sell it as protest song album, since he was a black folk singer. So that was the promotion pitch, but otherwise it was just another of the Chicago albums I did that didn’t sell a lot, because he didn’t have much of a club audience.

I didn’t think about it again until the stories began circulating that I’d stolen the tapes and taken them to Mexico and that was why the album didn’t come out for two years and was a flop. I was fired about the time the record came out and Annie and I did drive to Mexico and California, but we were back in New York in April for the world premiere of Ives’ 4th Symphony, with Stokowski conducting [Leopold Stokowski conducted it with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on April 26, 1965].

When the stories started about me and the stolen tapes in Terry’s interviews I regarded it as just one of those weird things. I tried to correct it when there was an article in the New York Times, but the journalist was in love with the story and wouldn’t give it up. Fantasy had the old Prestige album and some sort of recording rights and Bill Belmont called and asked if I’d like to produce a new album and I said very quickly no. Terry did appear in Stockholm a year later and told the same story and I thought of calling him and then I decided—why? His story was much better and he felt good with it and it didn’t matter to me one way or another. I’d produced a lot of records for Prestige that didn’t sell and I’m sure the artists have some equally colorful story.”

Quote Of The Week
Peter Doherty interview, Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian.
Another French royal whose path he crossed was Carla Bruni, when he was invited to some music sessions at the house she shared with Nicolas Sarkozy, then president.Her house was “a really strange scene, where you’ve got a guy with a submachine gun on each door.” Did he meet Sarkozy? “You’re joking, aren’t you?” he laughs, blaming his bad reputation. “She told me she took him to see Bob Dylan. She had the harmonica that Dylan gave her, and apparently he was like: I don’t want to meet this guy, who is he anyway?”

Bold As Joan Osborne
Another Day, Another Cover, but a sweet one: From Joan Osborne’s album earlier this year, mostly singing songs written by black songwriters, her cover of Jimi’s Bold As Love stands out. Hendrix is rarely covered, especially by non-guitarists, with the notable exception of Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois (This Must Be Love on Wrecking Ball). Great Melodies, wonderful changes and sweet, tremulous, touching lyrics are all present in a joyous stew. Osborne’s a great singer—check out her performance of What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted in Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, especially the breakdown halfway through when the Tell Me! Call & Response starts happening…

Title Fight
Adam Ant’s new album title—Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter—made me vaguely curious as to the longest album title. It turns out to be this 865 character cracker from Chumbawumba in 2008:
The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or From Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother’s Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don’t Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to ‘Guard’ Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It’s Over, Then It’s Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won. Soon to be re-released on Syco Records, apparently.

Liooel Riihie?
Found during iPhoto cull. Travelling in California last year, accidentally turning on the subtitling on the motel’s TV during Lionel Richie’s Who Do You Think You Are? programme.


%d bloggers like this: