Five Things: Wednesday 14th August

Nice Promo For The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Their new album, produced by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) sounds pretty good from the clips. Listen out for Shara Worden singing “I’ll Find A Way”, written by Motown guitarist Ted Lucas (no, me neither) that in the short clip sounds just great. Vernon has taste in female singers – his cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” testifies to that – and I’ll give him the benefit on his hyperbole about Worden. There’s a touching moment where Shara plays the finished item for Ted’s widow and rushes for the tissue box.

True Say, Will!
“Sometimes a band arrives and becomes extremely popular without good reason. Who are the million people who bought the debut album by White Lies, the trio from Ealing in West London? And who are the ever-growing hordes piling into arenas to hear their polished but unremarkable pop-rock? What do they hear in White Lies that can’t be heard from any number of Eighties-influenced bands, or indeed on albums by actual bands from the Eighties? Perhaps the answer is in White Lies’ ability to make euphoric, reverb-drenched, large-scale music that hints at dark edges but doesn’t actually have any, thereby making the listener feel they might be exploring hidden depths without running the risk of being exposed to anything challenging or depressing… and lyrics that suggest something meaningful without containing too many specifics that might alienate potential listeners.” Will Hodginson, The Times.

Urban Proms, BBC/Coolio’s Cash
The Urban Proms was pretty good musically, although most of what I saw cleaved to the Coolio template of “Gansta’s Paradise”, namely hip hop/rap/grime/whatevs with, er, a string section. But the between-songs links were crucifyingly embarrassing. I Name and Shame: Sarah-Jane Crawford (BBC Radio 3) and Charlie Sloth (BBC Radio 1Xtra). Unbelievably bad, with Sloth a kind of lightweight, unfunny James Corden. I know. Imagine that. By the way, if you want to profit from “Gansta’s Paradise” go to the Royalty Exchange where $140,000 will get you a cut of Coolio’s copyrights. I seem to remember this idea not panning out so well for David Bowie’s investors a while back.

Karen Black, RIP
I’ll always treasure her Rayette in Five Easy Pieces, loving Tammy Wynette with all her heart. First seen as a late teen in a Stockholm Cinema in the afternoon, told by friends that it couldn’t be missed, and they were dead-on. Even now ”Stand By Your Man” gets me, with its strangely off-beat army of acoustic guitars punching home the chorus. Ryan Gilbey, in his Guardian obit, wrote well:

“These parts were strikingly different from one another, but they had in common Black’s knack for conveying her characters’ rich and troubled inner lives, their cramped or thwarted dreams. The consummate example could be found in her Oscar-nominated performance as Rayette, the Tammy Wynette-loving girlfriend to Nicholson’s discontented antihero Bobby Dupea, in Five Easy Pieces. There was a comical but achingly sad intellectual gap between the two. Bobby resented her. Crucially, the audience never did. “I dig Rayette, she’s not dumb, she’s just not into thinking,” said Black in 1970. “I didn’t have to know anybody like her to play her. I mean, I’m like her, in ways. Rayette enjoys things as she sees them, she doesn’t have to add significances. She can just love the dog, love the cat. See? There are many things she does not know, but that’s cool; she doesn’t intrude on anybody else’s trip. And she’s going to survive.”

Wonderfully nuanced use of sound in this slightly pointless mass-murderer tale. The amped up folk band in the nightime town square are all bass and a tiny bit of vocals, Otis and James Carr on the car stereo sound exactly right, the metal band in a bar is as muffled and chaotic as it would be in life. Bass thrash, guitar blur, gruff vox. The Pretenders’ “Brass In Pocket” in the pub makes you remember what a great and unusual song that is.

“Got brass in pocket
Got bottle, I’m gonna use it
Intention, I feel inventive
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice

Got motion, restrained emotion
Been driving, Detroit leaning
No reason, just seems so pleasing,
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice”

Extra: Deke’s Car. Sunday. Definition of Rock (abilly) ’n’ Roll


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.


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