Ten Things! Thursday, 7th May

Yes, for one week (or is that two?) only, owing to the non-appearance of Five Things last week, Ten Things Seen and Heard!

ONE: LOOKING FORWARDS
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Django and Jimmie. Now that sounds interesting – a tribute to jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers. Apparently, it contains a sublime interpretation Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.

TWO: LOOKING BACKWARDS
After Leslie leaves the room, Grace steps in… according to Nishat Baig at The Source, “RCA’s newest singer Grace has joined forces with G-Eazy and Quincy Jones to recreate Lesley Gore’s hit song “You Don’t Own Me.” The original track, released in 1963, was considered one of the first women’s empowerment anthems. Quincy Jones was the original producer, and co-produced the new version as a way to pay homage to Gore before her passing. The 17-year-old singer/songwriter, Grace, is taking the pop-soul world by storm and has been influenced by singers like Smokey Robinson to Janis Joplin, and Shirley Bassey to Amy Winehouse.” Well, we’ve never heard that before, have we? However, to be fair, it’s a pretty fly version.

THREE: I HAD NO IDEA…

Bill
That Citroën made a Citroën Maserati, but they did, and Bill Wyman bought one. The Guardian reported: “The minute I saw the Maserati, I thought – this is it! It looked so beautiful. They showed me that incredible engine and the double headlights…” Wyman lived in Vence in the South of France between 1971 and 1982: “I’d drive it to Keith Richards’ place in Cap Ferrat, to record Exile on Main Street and I’d drive to Paris and back, an eight-hour journey each way.” Wyman recalled zipping over in his Maserati to see his new circle of friends on the Cote d’Azur, people such as the artists Marc Chagall and César and the writer James Baldwin. He also drove the car twice to the Montreux jazz festival where he played with the likes of Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.”

FOUR: NEWS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE STATE DINNER!
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe: “The partnership between Japan and the United States is simply unparalleled in building the future of Asia and the world. I know everyone here knows that famous song by Diana Ross, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The song goes, “Ain’t no mountain high enough; ain’t no valley low enough, to keep me from you.” (Laughter.) The relationship of Japan and the United States is just like this. (Laughter and applause.)”

FIVE: THANK YOU, SAINSBURYS
For reminding me of Al Green’s sublime Belle album, from which some adland baby-boomer (or, possibly, Hoxton hipster) had extracted “Feels Like Summer”, one of its highlights, to soundtrack their latest advert. It has a simple, funky groove that’s so damned relaxed. After the wonderful thickness of Willie Mitchell productions, Al produced this himself and it has a very different sound – a little more acoustic, a touch more diffuse and airy – but great in its own way. Cut on the cusp of the secular and gospel parts of his career it is both nostalgic and urgent, often in the same song. In “Belle”, which rides on the back of Al’s choppy acoustic strumming, he talks to a woman about his religious feelings – “Belle, the Lord and I been friends for a mighty long time/Belle, leaving him has never really crossed my mind” and “Belle, oh It’s you that I want, but it’s Him that I need…” The push and pull of his calling runs through all its tracks. Check out, too, the lovely “Dream”, a seven minute meditation with Green and James Bass on lead guitars, that’s reminiscent of the kind of songs Bobby Womack was writing on the Poet albums. It’s now firmly on the Summer Playlist – I’d recommend you add it to yours forthwith.

SIX: PRECIOUS

lowell

After last week’s Lowell George DVD, found on YouTube – more of the Bedbugs!

SEVEN: BOTH GEOFF MULDAUR AND HIS AUDIENCE ARE HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME
I’ll write more about this gig in the upstairs room of a pub in Islington, I think, but suffice it to say that it was a total treat [and thanks to Tim for spotting it]. Geoff was introduced by his childhood friend Joe Boyd, who produced several of his albums including the fantastic (and expensive – check out the soul sessionmen credits, the cream-of-the-crop jazzmen and, uh, the Hollywood Orchestra) Geoff Muldaur is having a Wonderful Time. The gig was a masterclass in tale-telling and hypnotic playing. He’s a precise, fastidious guitar player, often in open tuning, and he picks with the lucidity and precision of someone like James Taylor or Richard Thompson – you know, those guitarists whose fingers glide over the strings making complex spiderweb shapes while beautiful melodies issue forth. The thumbpicked rhythm didn’t waver, and his genius for arranging made each song come alive, whether its roots were in the twenties, sixties or nineties. The name-checks ranged from Philippé Wynne of the Spinners – “People were conceived to this guy and nobody knows his name. One of our greatest singers” – to McKinneys Cotton Pickers, via Bobby Charles (“Small Town Talk” and “See You Later Alligator” among many others) and Stravinsky – a testament to Geoff’s great taste.

EIGHT: SYNCHRONICITY
Oddly, I’d been listening to Phillippé Wynne because of Richard Williams’ great post on Boz Scaggs covering, in Richard’s view, a song he shouldn’t have. Read the description of its recording, listen to Wynne sing (especially at the fade) and you’ll be convinced of the truth of both Richard’s and Geoff’s words.

NINE: PLEASE, MRS GLASER…
With the memories of Barney’s new book on Woodstock still circling my mind (Small Town Talk is the story of what happened after Albert and Sally Grossman first came to Woodstock and then, on the advice of their friends Milton and Shirley Glaser, bought an estate that had belonged to comic-strip illustrator John Striebel.” – really, Shirley Glaser is pretty much responsible for the whole Woodstock scene), I walked into a movie poster shop in Marylebone and saw something I’d once tried really hard to find in the early days of the internet, and had then forgotten about: an original of design giant Milton Glaser’s poster, which was included in the sleeve of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album in 1967. Apparently, some money changed hands and I seem to be the proud owner.

Bobposter

TEN: ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK
A track from Sam Charters’ Folkways LP, Sounds of London. Looking for soundtracks to play at a photography show that we’re helping to organise, we’ve compiled playlists, recorded traffic, made music and disputed the various qualities of John Lennon’s Walls and Bridges and Sonny Rollins’ The Bridge. Sam’s London record, recorded in 1960, has some great moments – Speakers Corner, a pub in Shoreditch, Covent Garden Market at dawn, and this, a marching band recorded from our front room window in Charing Cross Road.

Thursday, April 23rd

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Marina Hyde in the Guardian, attempting to follow Cameron and Boris as they gladhand the (carefully controlled) public: “Anyway, the day was run not so much on a need-to-know basis as a we’ll-decide-who-needs-to-know basis. I don’t want to overegg this remoteness problem, but we did start the day in a facility that describes itself as “the UK’s premier supplier of log cabins”. By Friday we’ll be at the UK’s premier supplier of panic rooms. Cameron has toured so many empty business parks and factories now that he must be totally dislocated, like some infinitely duller version of an arena rock star whose manager has to slap him awake and tell him he’s in Minneapolis.”

RECOMMENDED ONE
Lowell George – Feats First. I stumbled on this DVD on LoveFilm. It’s a must-see for fans of the late-lamented Lowell. Excellent contributions from Bud Scoppa, Barney Hoskyns, George Massenberg and the always interesting Van Dyke Parks, it avoids most of the Rock doc traps. Director Elliot Riddle allows contributors to talk at length, and Lowell’s life story is told with honesty and heart. Martin Kibbee, George’s songwriting partner, recalled two demos by their first band, The Factory, in 1966, with Frank Zappa at the controls. “The Loved One” was based on a movie of the same name from the book by Evelyn Waugh, which we were big fans of! And “Lightning Rod Man” was based on a short story by Herman Melville – Frank was not into all that literary stuff! We recorded at Original Sound, the first 10 track recorder in town and Frank was the most inventive guy in the studio. He tuned the piano and played it with pliers; he doubled up the backbeat with rolled up towels on a piano bench!”

It’s full of great tales – did you know George studied with Ravi Shankar? That he appeared on The Gomer Pyle show with drummer Richie Hayward, as a group called The Bedbugs? There’s a great interview where he delinates the difference between his style of slide playing and Ry Cooder’s – a lot to do with compression and a Sears & Roebuck 11/16ths spark-plug socket wrench.

Most touching are the Massenberg and Parks interviews. Here’s Van Dyke talking: “I was aware of his physical prowess and his intellect – Kant or Nietzsche, great philosophers, Socrates – all these dead white guys spoke to him with their theories about how to live a life that was instructed by principle. Both of us were left of Karl Marx and we were members of the same team, with a Trojan Horse, and we were determined to enter the music business and transform it and bring it good intent. I loved Lowell like a brother”. There follows an anecdote about a Japanese group who turned up at Sunset Sound with a suitcase filled with $100 dollar bills and a desire to be produced by Van Dyke that is just insane.

RECOMMENDED TWO
The Judge is better than I feared it would be – more hard-nosed than Hollywood usually is – and features a nice playlist of songs alongside Thomas Newman’s score: Bon Iver’s “Holocene”, “Reason to Cry” by Lucinda Williams, Fleetwood Mac’s “Storms” and Gram Parson’s We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes (In The Morning)”. And the bonus (?) of Willie Nelson singing a pained version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” over the closing credits.

NOT RECOMMENDED
Later’s line-up this week had Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – yesterday’s haircuts, yesterday’s chords. To almost quote Greil Marcus, “Who buys this shit?” Followed by the Mumfords. Christ, lank hair alert! Hideous Guitary-Guitars in Turbo-Folk Explosion! It sounds like they want to be Counting Crows – nice to see their ambition stretching, eh? Did we fight the Rock Wars of the Seventies so this could happen? My desire for something fresh is at least met by Cheikh N’Digel Lô’s accordion player and his Senagalese/Fado cross, supple and fluid, with a dead-on beat.

ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK
Open Culture: “Five years ago, Kevin Ryan a 30-something music producer from Houston, Texas got a big idea. Why not take his two favourite things – Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss, of course – and mash them up into one original creation. Hence came Dylan Hears a Who, a mock album that took seven Dr. Seuss classics and put them to the melodies and imitated voice of Mr. Dylan.” While I, as a child, preferred Richard Scarry to Dr Seuss, there is something about the language that Seuss uses that makes this a perfect match. And you can’t argue with the sentiment.

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