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.”

Sky

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.

Homeland

Comments

  1. Homeland Blue Note style is excellent. Thanks for this.

    Loving the Wayne Shorter memories. Suspect a book on the In A Silent Way sessions might do well. It might be verging on trainspotting but would be good for Miles completists. Although it’s probably covered well enough in Paul Tingens’ Electric Miles book. In a Silent Way, not so much an album, more a religion.

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