Wednesday, January 9th

{ONE} BEAT IT!
It’s great, discovering that there are still things to discover, like this great 60s tv show with a fantastic typographic title: The !!!! Beat. It was essentially a black music program out of Dallas Texas, with a white presenter (Nashville DJ “Hoss” Allen) and a house band led by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. There’s a bunch of episodes on YouTube, and so much to enjoy (Freddy King doing a lot with a little, the matching suit and Stratocaster of Louis Jordan’s guitarist) but my favourite performance so far is probably Barbara Lynn. As Clarence fiddles his way to the end of a country song, his band looking like the slickest Uptown Soul Revue, Hoss says “Have mercy, have mercy, thought I was on the wrong show there for a minute, lost my way in the Opry House with “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”. Well, darlin’s, it’s nice to have Miss Barbara Lynn back with us. She’s got a swinging thing to do for us. Right here, from Beaumont, Texas, Barbara…”

And, looking like Jimi Hendrix’s younger sister, she rocks “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”, her unvarnished rhythm guitar playing and great phrasing leading the band in a Southern Soul classic. Thom Hickey at The Immortal Jukebox wrote about this performance a few years ago, but I must have missed it. Oh, and note the varnish worn down on her blonde Esquire where her wild style with a thumb pick has scraped raw the body above the scratchplate…

{TWO} LIKE EATING A PICTURE OF FOOD
At Marc Myers’ Jazzwax, this fascinating insight into the (as bassist Chuck Israels sees it) limitations of the recording process. Marc: Following my post on trombonist J.J. Johnson’s Broadway Express (1965), Chuck Israels sent along a few observations about J.J.’s Broadway, a show-tune album from 1963… “Hi Marc, I was on some of the sessions for JJ’s Broadway, and they were memorable. The experience demonstrated how inadequately most recordings represent the real sound of music played by fine musicians and experienced by listeners in the same space. Those five great trombonists, JJ, Urbie Green, Lou McGarity, Dick Hixon, and Paul Faulise made an overwhelmingly rich and powerful sound in the studio. We recorded at the old A&R Studio above Jim and Andy’s on 48th Street. It was loud and beautiful, perfectly balanced, in tune and rhythmically coordinated. You not only heard it with your ears, you could feel it on your body.

“But when we heard the playbacks, I was deeply disappointed. Little of the experience carried over into the recording, and the lush, deep and powerful blend of sound, the humanity of it, was rendered thinner and more brassy after being processed through a reverb system that the engineer, Phil Ramone, had installed in the building’s stairwell. When I hear the recording now, I enjoy it. JJ’s arrangements and the performances are all fine. The sound is good by most standards. But it’s a fraction of how the music sounded in the room. My friend, Jerry Rosen, former associate concertmaster and later pianist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, says listening to music on recordings is like getting kissed over the telephone. Another friend, pianist and composer-arranger Bill Dobbins, says it’s like eating a picture of food. I’m still glad we have recordings.”

{THREE} JIM AND ANDY’S SOUNDS THE BUSINESS
“Over the years, Jim & Andy’s became more than just a place for studio guys to relax between sessions. There was a shelf in the back for storing small instruments and upstairs there was room for a couple of drum sets, basses, and guitar amplifiers. There was a coat rack where guys could hang a jacket or a tux for weeks at a time. In fact, I used to leave a topcoat back there from winter to spring, and no one ever bothered it. We could also leave phone messages, letters, packages, even checks with Rocky or Jim. We always knew they’d be delivered to the right person.” – Milt Hinton in his book, Playing the Changes. [photo copyright of Milt Hinton]

{FOUR} 2019: YEAR OF DONEGAN
The Voice’s opening show had a couple of moments that, for all the programme’s set-up narratives, actually worked. The last singer, Nicole Dennis, was a professional (no bar to competing in The Voice), currently singing in the Dreamgirls chorus and understudying the part that sealed Judge Jennifer Hudson’s fame. Cue a stormin’ duet!

The contestant before, Peter Donegan, Lonnie’s son, was trying his luck, and struck gold at the mention of Lonnie’s name – Judge Tom [Jones] had recorded one of Lon’s songs! It was “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, written by Donegan and his then-guitarist Jimmy Currie, and inspired by a Josh White song, “Wanderin’”.

Although Tom said on the programme that it was written for him, Wikipedia has this to say, quoting Tom: “I did some shows with Lonnie and we became friends… One night he said: ‘Look, I have this song, you’d sing the pants off it. I’ve recorded it, but I can’t really sing it. It’s a sort of a rewrite of a song from the Thirties when the Depression was going on, called “I’m Never Going To Cease My Wandering.” I knew that song because a lot of guys used to sing it in pubs in Wales. I went to his house in Virginia Water, and he got this record out to listen to… With the big chorus on it, it sounded fantastic. He was singing it Lonnie Donegan style, completely different from the way I did, like somebody busking…” So they duly gather ’round the old Joanna and bash it out, not badly.

In Patrick Humphrey’s excellent biography of Lonnie, he tells how Elvis heard the song when Jones performed it as part of his Vegas show (which became the model for Elvis’ own return to live performing). “Tom had told Elvis that the song was written by this guy Lonnie Donegan. ‘Oh I know him,’ replied the King, ‘He used to take me on in the charts’. In 1976, at one of his last-ever recording sessions, Elvis finally covered “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”.

Sometime this year the BBC should broadcast Billy Bragg’s documentary on the cultural impact of “Rock Island Line”, directed by George Scott., which is based on Billy’s fine book, Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World.

{FIVE} PROBABLY NOT

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full Five Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Five Things End of Year Part 2 follows next week.

Friday, August 12th

 

ONE IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN THIS…
If you’re resident outside Britain you may not have. But you should. Three minutes of wonderment made in an unfeasibly short space of time. “We wanted to illustrate that someone brushing their teeth can be as superhuman as someone who plays wheelchair rugby,” says We’re the Superhumans’ director Dougal Wilson. “When I was writing the treatment, I was looking for a link between sport and non-sport and started thinking that music could provide this connection. One of the first people I met while working on the ad was Mark Goffeney, AKA Big Toe, who plays the guitar with his feet. From there I started searching for a ‘band’ and we managed to find lots of other musicians who were overcoming their disability by playing music.”

paralympics.jpg

It required casting an array of musicians, athletes, dancers and extras. More than 140 people with disabilities star in the advert, so finding the right people meant eschewing traditional ways of casting. ays Alice. “Thank god for the internet and our team of researchers because we found some amazing people just by trawling through hundreds of YouTube clips and Facebook videos. I love that these talented people don’t have agents, we’re giving people a chance to shine on their own and giving them a platform they didn’t have before,” says Alice Tonge, creative director at 4Creative.

TWO THE BOWIE PROM
Jude Rogers gets to the point in The Guardian: “Six months and three weeks after David Bowie died, musicians still feel compelled to give their tributes, to sing those songs that shaped their lives. It was almost unsurprising when the Bowie prom was announced, promising Bowie with a twist – but who really wants Bowie with a twist? Bowie was the twist: the wayward Bromley boy who turned himself into a peculiar pop art project, perfectly.” Her view was that too few people took risks, and I think she was right. Of the performances that I saw, Anna Calvi and Laura Mvulu were the ones who did. Also, are instrumental versions of Bowie songs ever anything more than, well, slightly tame instrumental versions of Bowie songs? Update – I’ve watched it all now, and I think there are some fine rearrangements, especially those by Jherek Bischoff and Anna Meredith (who did the two Marc Almond numbers). Oh, and lovely to be reminded of the beautiful instrument that is Paul Buchanan’s voice.

THREE MICK GOLD IS WEIRDLY SYNCHRONOUS
“I’m still grooving on the revelation I came across that Milton Glaser based his ‘iconic’ poster of Dylan on Duchamp’s self portrait, dated variously from 1957 to 1959,” Mick emails just as I was reading a book that features Glaser for a review that I’m writing for Eye magazine. Mick continues… “I came under Duchamp’s spell when I made a film about Dada and Surrealism way back in the 1970s, Europe After the Rain. His sensibility seemed to inflect everything he touched. He created a relatively small body of work, and 99% of it ended up in Philadelphia! When Bowie released Darkstar at the moment of his death, I thought of Duchamp making his final work, Etant Donnes, in secret and then allowing news of it seep out after he had died. Even though I found it a rather dubious work when I finally saw it in Philadelphia, the ideas and preparatory works behind it are still haunting and beautiful.”

FOUR SUMMER BREEZE MAKES ME FEEL FINE
Quite excited to read about the arrival soon of “The Great Lost Isley Brothers Album”. In 1980 they wanted to record a live album, but instead of the usual mobile truck at a concert venue they cut Groove with You… Live! at Bearsville Sound in Woodstock (where The Band recorded Cahoots). Apparently it “had all of the incendiary thrills of a live show in pristine studio fidelity.” The band then overdubbed an audience’s frenzied reception and the energetic introduction of MC “Gorgeous” George Odell. Mad.With a ten-minute version of “Summer Breeze” I’m there… It reminded me of a great interview with Ernie Isley that I read a while back. Here’s some of it:

The HUB: Your soaring guitar work on “That Lady” put rock guitar sounds in the spotlight – and that was pretty revolutionary for soul-inflected music at at the time. How did you get that sustain-drenched sound?
Ernie Isley: We were working with the same engineers Stevie Wonder was using on what would become Innervisions. We were working on the record that became 3+3. There was a fuzz box and a phase shifter by Maestro, and that was pretty much it.
The HUB: That solo had a huge influence on ’70s guitar sounds in several genres.
Ernie Isley: We cut it before the lyrics had been finished, and there was a strong rhythmic guitar part that tied in with the congas – very funky, very rhythmic. But when I plugged in for the solo and hit that first note, the track went from black and white to 3D technicolor! Recording it, there were two takes; the second take is what’s on the record. On the first take I was playing all over the place. My eldest brother, Kelly, was looking at me through the glass; he did not blink for like 25 minutes. The engineers were going nuts, and I was going nuts. When I got done, they said play it again to fit in with the vocals. I was really ticked off that we had to do a take two.

FIVE BONNIE RAITT FOR PRESIDENT!
A very nice interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS covers a lot of ground in its 25 minutes, from the death of her brother to the current Election. An intelligent warm interviewer, an interesting and modest subject – what’s not to like?

bonnie.jpg

ON THE MUSIC PLAYER
Reading Malcolm Jack’s Guardian review of Tom Jones live show in Glasgow, I see that Tom finished his set with an apposite cover: Sister Rosetta’s jumping “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” Hear it in the Music Player to the right.

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Tuesday, May 10th

AL GREEN NITE!
A chance stumbling across a Bee Gees concert the other night while my mother was staying with us led to an across-the-board agreement that the Bros Gibb wrote some crackers, which then led on to an Al Green YouTube-athon, Al being one of my mother’s favourite singers. I said “You have to see this!” and lined up Al in 1973 doing the Robin and Barry Gibb classic “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (which I have previously mentioned here). That led on to many delights, but it was the Soul Train version of “Take Me to the River” that took the biscuit. With a horn intro that I’d swear was sampled by Gil Scott Heron for “B Movie”, the drummer starts working a storm up behind Al. Al whips his arm around in the air like he’s lassoing the band to join him in the river itself. The drummer holds back his fills ’til the last moment each time around. He’s playing a space age kit with bowl drums – I’ve never seen one like it before. Once you’ve spotted Homer Simpson’s face in those bowls, it’s hard not to keep seeing it. Make sure to play this loud – as Don Cornelius says at the end, it’s a Stone Gas…

CRAFT BEER LABELS REALLY PUSHING WORDPLAY TO NEW LEVEL
Peter, Pale and Mary, anyone?

!beer

A BONUS OF OCCASIONAL LECTURING…
…is that, apart from spending a day with a really nice engaged group of people, you get a poster done for your visit, and in the case of working at Southampton for Chris Arran and Jonny Hanmsotonnah, a hand-crafted CD (Songs from the Mermaid Café , in association with Trunk Records, to tie in with Jonny’s exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park).It has now accompanied me on a few trips and is a fluid mixture of things known and unknown. We’ve long thrilled to the calypso stylings of Robert Mitchum, but were not au fait with Pinky Winters, whose “Cool Sazerac” is a highlight. My favourite track is not the title music to Kes, or even the beat-driven “Comin’ Home Baby”, by The Velvet Fog, Mr Mel Tormé, apparently a Northern Soul classic, and totally terrific. No, it’s the beautiful “Melodie Pour Les Radio Taxis”, played by Barney Wilen, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Dorham, Paul Rovere and Duke Jordan, from the soundtrack to Un Témoin Dans La Ville – totally unknown to me, but found by Jonny in the Trunk Record archives. Hear it in the music player to the right…
From a site devoted to Wilen: “The main character of his playing continues to lie in his even trajectory. His solos have a serene assurance which eschews dynamic shifts in favor of a single flowing line. With his tone still exceptionally bright and refined, it grants his playing a rare, persuasive power.”
And Jonny’s own liner notes are a treat: “The trunk itself has more than a touch of the Tardis about it. Once you open the lid, you soon find yourself diving in headlong, ’til only your loafers are seen popping out. And once the rummaging begins, there’s no possible way to stop. And why would you want to? This particular record shop, above us in the great internet wen, is far more interesting than anything you’ll find on most high streets…”

AN EXCERPT FROM TOM JONES’ “OVER THE TOP AND BACK”
Dip into Tom’s book anywhere and you’ll be rewarded with a pithy take on his career at that point…
“And then an opportunity opens up for me to become a recording artist at the home of the world’s most notorious gangsta rap label… Tom Jones at Interscope. It couldn’t seem less likely. Of all the records companies in all the world, at this point in time. So suddenly my world is now Jimmy Iovine’s phonebook And Jimmy Iovone’s phone book is not short of numbers. Furthermore, during the making of the album we happily sign up for, he seems ready to use every single one of them…
Teddy Riley from the Backstreet Boys, the king of new jack swing, gets asked to produce some tracks. So does Jeff Lynne. So does Trevor Horn. So does Flood, who has worked with U2 and Nine Inch Nails. So does Youth, the techno and dub producer. So, for all I know, do any number of other people who aren’t too fussy about having a surname in 1994.
As the album comes together, Jimmy gets in touch. ‘I’ve been listening to everything , and it’s great,’ he says. ‘But I’m just trying to think of the track my mother is going to like.’ Seriously? Even now, at Interscope, with lethal rap acts down the hall and armed guards on the door, with money flying around to bring in the hippest producers and writers known to man, we’re still wondering how to please Jimmy Iovine’s mother?
Nothing against Jimmy Iovine’s mother, obviously.”
It’s a cracking read, poor proofreading notwithstanding (Porter Wagner? Shell Talmay?). And the CD that was released to tie in with the publication, Long Lost Suitcase, is a nice evocation of 50s music of all stripes, with one standout track – a version of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ “Elvis Presley Blues”. It was a strong song when it appeared on Time (The Revelator), but here it’s given depth by an arrangement brilliant in its simplicity – the only backing is producer Ethan Johns’ guitar over-amped and tremolo’d to the point of feedback, throbbing from left to right in the speakers, providing a bluesy plaincloth for Jones to sing over, just the right amount of unpolished. And Tom has something to give the song; after all, he knew Presley as peer and friend, and the lyric stares him in the face – “I was thinking that night about Elvis / Day that he died, day that he died/ He was all alone in a long decline…”

WHAT DID YOU DO AT WORK TODAY, DARLING…
“Well, I played my clarinet, I mean I held my clarinet, through two holes, um, in a sound stage and lifted it, you know, miming, when the clarinet section played… no, I couldn’t play it, it was just my arms through the stage, I had no way of blowing, just my arms, I couldn’t see anything, the floorboards were very close to my nose…”

Marc Myers at JazzWax posts this incredibly weird clip: Ann Miller, tap dancing like a champion,while a disembodied orchestra plays…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and in a non-music-related way, this, by Charles Pierce for US Esquire, is worth reading…

 

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 4th April

Acoustixx
Could you sound like the xx with just a cheap acoustic guitar and a cassette tape machine meant for accompanying karaoke? Willis Earl Beal can. Young, black, Southern, heartbroken, can draw, could soundtrack Juno. Evening Kiss is beautiful, insistent, mournful, touching. “This record was recorded on bad equipment. I like it that way.” Amen.

Churn, Churn, Churn
To everything there is a season… and it seems that right now it’s a fashion season, belonging to Flo and Lana. It used to be that it would take a good few years for pop or rock stars to get sucked into other orbits such as film or literature, but now the career path is Voguealicious. Is this diversification, to make the Fame Moment™ last longer? We’ve had Flo and Karl, sittin’ in a tree, yet Stylist’s cover story this week says that, “despite two number 1 albums and 18 awards Florence Welch is a reluctant star.” Really? Reluctant? It sure looks it, in the 327 full-page pictures they’ve run of her. To be fair, it’s a good interview that does paint her as someone who accepts all of this so that she can do the work she cares about… And Lana, first whispered about in September last year, now (already!) the recipient of the fashion equivalent of the Légion d’honneur, a Mulberry bag named after her, because of her—are you ready?—“retrospective look.” As for the bag, straight out of W. Eugene Smith’s Life Magazine story, “Country Doctor,” I’m failing to see much Del Rey.

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
Tracklist for Tom Jones’ upcoming album, produced by Ethan Johns:
Tower Of Song (Leonard Cohen)
(I Want To) Come Home (Paul McCartney)
Hit Or Miss (Odetta)
Love And Blessings (Paul Simon)
Soul Of A Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
Bad As Me (Tom Waits)
Dimming Of The Day (Richard Thompson)
Travelling Shoes (Vera Hall Ward)
All Blues Hail Mary (Joe Henry)
Charlie Darwin (The Low Anthem)

Great song choices. Do I want to hear Tom Jones sing them?
Answer: Save Me, Jesus (Bobby Charles)

The Sound Of Dobell’s
“Every Jazz fan is born within the sound of Dobell’s!”
An email from Leon Parker, announcing the launch of his resource dedicated to Britain’s hugely influential Record Shops. Charlie Gillett introduced us because of Doug Dobell’s shops on Charing Cross Road (which my dad Bill built, and where I worked as a teenager). There are some nice reminiscences on the site (to which more will hopefully be added) and I particularly liked Rob Hall’s: “It was an ambition of mine to own all the albums featured on the bags they used.” Bill had selected the albums and had them photographed by an advertising photographer he knew in Soho, who shot it on lith film for better reproduction. Accidental design, it still looks good today. www.britishrecordshoparchive.org/dobells.html

Pic(k) Of The Week
“Sometimes, if I crave silence I turn to my Land 250. The experience of taking Polaroids connects me with the moment. They are souvenirs of a joyful solitude.” Patti Smith.
I thought that maybe I’d lost this, a sweet souvenir from an installation at Fondation Cartier in Paris that “reflected 40 years of her more personal visual art-making and creative expression,” but it turned up this week. And it will never be used in anger, of course.

%d bloggers like this: