Monday, June 16, 2008

seven songs

It's blog meme time again. Jim Bliss has tagged me.

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your [summer]. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

I like Jim and Justin's thing of, where possible, giving you a link so you can hear the track.

That said, sometimes Youtube lets you down. There are all these recent performances of people doing their classics from decades ago, lacking the power of the original. Yet to the uninitiated, and to the future, these pedestrian geriatric videos will become what we were excited about.

Fortunately, some people are just sticking tunes up there. Try putting '45rpm' in a Youtube search and see what comes up.

Anyway, on with the show.

1. Brenton Wood - Baby, You Got It

I'd never heard of this guy until a couple of months ago. Someone listing soul 45s on Ebay was selling Wood's Catch You On the Rebound and it instantly grabbed me, a piece of gorgeous gossamer late 60s pop-soul.

When the record arrived, it turns out it had been mis-listed and the A-side was in fact Baby, You Got It. It was even better. Such warmth, such ease and tingle and lightness of touch with such groove. If sunshine could be captured and made into music, it would be this.

There's a double CD of all his 60s stuff, and most of it is in this vein and just as good. And if you buy it from his company, it comes autographed!

2. Nina Simone - Angel of The Morning

There are loads of versions of this song, most of them mediocre and forgettable. But that's all in the performance; there's a great song here. PP Arnold's version utterly soars and swoons. Joya Landis' Trojan reggae version sways and enfolds you. But even then, you find only some of the lyrics have stuck. Then come to Nina Simone's version and she takes it down and really pulls the spirit of the lyric out. As the brilliant analysis on Wikipedia says, it echoes Ruby Tuesday in being somehow slightly baroque and being the sentiment of an effortlessly liberated woman.

The venerable Richard Cubesville once said that every sentence of George Orwell's journalism seems to have a silent prefix of 'oh for fuck's sake, any idiot can see that...'. By the same token, everything you ever see and hear of Nina Simone seems shrouded in 'I am a fucking artist. Got that?'. Such incredible presence and gravity, total and constant, even on a tune played so delicately as this.

3. Hush The Many - Revolve

Fucking hell, this band are the real deal.

As so often with early records of a band's career, the recorded stuff doesn't properly capture their live prowess. They are one of the great live bands to see, absolutely mesmerising. Sensitive yet epic, brooding, tender, mysterious, searing, captivating. Imagine if Tim Buckley was writing and playing in Placebo and you're more or less there. Now add a cello.

This new single keeps me coming back over and over, while it's on it makes the world just stop.

You can buy it as an MP3 or a 7inch vinyl here.

4. Manu Dibango - Soul Makossa

From 1am to 5am Radio 4 fucks off and you get the BBC World Service. It's what I listen to before going to sleep. There's always tons of interesting stuff, and even if something's boring, programmes are short and it's only quarter of an hour at most before something else is on.

So I sometimes hear Charlie Gillett's - please someone invent a better term - world music show. He did one a couple of months back playing key old tracks that brought world music to western ears. When he played this I had to sit up, turn the light on and write the details down. Next day I bought a copy.

It's early 70s funk with this insistent looping rhythm, a rasping catchy sax hook and nebulous ethereal floaty backing vocals, so you're pulled in several directions at once. Punchy, spooky, and a hell of a groove.

Looking into it, like numerous great tracks (Rock Around The Clock, I Will Survive), it was recorded as an afterthought for a B-side but the public knew better.

Michael Jackson pinched the 'mama-say, mama-sa, mama-ma-kossa' chant for Wanna Be Starting Somethin and Dibango sued and got a chunk of the money. As that's the biggest selling album of all time, if you see Dibango in the pub then it's definitely his round.

5. Dinah Washington - Big Long Slidin' Thing

Man, I love Bear Family, the label that put out my compilation with this on. They've done a Johnny Cash box set so comprehensive it's got him singing Ring of Fire in Spanish and I Walk The Line in German.

There are a few I could pick from this recent play-lots album, Eat to The Beat: The Dirtiest of Them Dirty Blues. It takes records from a time when you couldn't sing I Wanna Sex You Up. Instead, you can say that you've got the best piano in town and I'd like to play it so 'baby, let me bang your box'.

It may be full of innuendo, but it's not all about the lyrics. It wouldn't work if it was just some pile of nudge-nudge. Musically, most tracks are superb. If you're going to write a song that pushes the limits, you're probably at the rougher edge of music, and the CD really captures the upsurge of jazz that fed into rock n roll.

And for those of us who only know My Ding A Ling from Chuck Berry's excruciating live single, Dave Bartholomew's original is very refreshing; explicitly saucy and a fabulous ska rhythm.

The womens songs have an edge, coming from a time when sex was unmentionable, let alone women having sexual desire. It's this one I'll plump for - from 1954 Dinah Washington's Big Long Slidin' Thing.

Incidentally, don't be alarmed at the references to her 'daddy'; it's not an incest thing, nor an infantilising of women thing. It was a common slang term for 'fella' at the time. 'Mama' was commonly used for girlfriend, and that survived intact well into the 70s and still at a diminished level to this day, yet 'daddy' fell by the wayside for some reason.

I’d been in every bar
Been in every honky-tonk

Been tryin’ to find my daddy

With that broke down piece of junk

Asked everyone to help me

Cried help me if you can

You know my daddy

He’s that trombone-playin’ man

Where is my daddy?

Tell me, where is my daddy?

With that big long slidin’ thing


I even asked a man

That played a steel guitar

He said that you don’t need him

To be moved eight to the bar

He brought his amplifier

And he hitched it in my plug

He planked it, and he plonked it

But it just wasn’t good enough

Cos I need my daddy

Need my daddy

With that big long slidin’ thing


Well then a knock came at my door

I said, 'Mmm, my daddy’s back'

I opened up the door

And there stood Piano Jack

He said, 'I came to do some tinklin’ on your piano keys'

I said, 'Don’t make me nervous; this ain’t no time to tease'
Just send me my daddy

Send me my daddy

With that big long slidin’ thing


Well the first time he played

I asked him how it was done

He said I blow through here

Then I work my fingers and my thumb

I slide it right out

Then I slide it back again

And I get a lot of wind

And then I slide it back again


Where is my daddy

With that big long slidin’ thing?

Oh yeah!

6. Jimmy Ruffin - I'll Say Forever My Love

I first heard of this through the reference in Reminisce Part Two on Dexys Midnight Runners' criminally underrated masterpiece Don't Stand Me Down. It was ages before I heard the actual Ruffin song.

It's the same team that wrote and produced his classic What Becomes of The Broken Hearted. This has something of the same pace and atmosphere, but where that record has an ominous anguish, this has a hands-to-the-sky euphoria. You can tell a songwriter's hit gold when they know they can start a track with the chorus.

Although it's from 1967, it was a top ten hit in the UK in 1970, as the emerging Northern Soul scene trawled for lost old belters.

7. The Church - Summer

Most people who love music have a couple of bands they really champion, people who haven't had the acclaim they really deserve, bands who become personal, part of who we are. For me, that's Cowboy Junkies and, most of all, The Church.

Starting out in 1980 with a brand of post-Television pre-REM intelligent Rickenbacker tunes, they rapidly progressed. Absurdly prolific (even the most devoted Church fans can't keep up with all the solo and spin-off projects), always luscious and mysterious, they imbue their work with a very strong yet very vague sense of longing. In the last decade or so they've mutated away from the three minute song into something more sensual and textural, something a bit more Spiritualized.

It's such an odd thing when a band you've loved for years brings out an album that becomes your favourite. At first it's just new music whereas the old stuff is branded into your soul. Then, as you absorb, you feel your spiritual innards shifting. So it was with the Church's beautiful languid 2001 album After Everything, Now This.

The follow-up, Forget Yourself, was more spiky and angular, yet still found space for several mellifluous opiate beauties, and they close the album with this one. Last week I was listening to a compilation I made for someone ages ago and it came up, and it wrapped around me like a warm slo-mo whirlpool. It makes me close my eyes and feel my arms lift as my lungs slowly fully fill. So human, so eternal, so rich, so gentle, so huge and so alive.

= = = = = = =

As for tagging others, I've recently found Panadola Diction, who listens with intelligence and a complete lack of pretention to a wide variety of music.

I thought of Jon over at Uncarved and then found that he's already done it.

Alice, we know of her activism and her allotment, but what does she listen to? It's time to find out.

Then, as with my last meme, there's a few great wits who really should return to blogging. Comfortably fronting the pack is Rhythmic Ginger, the man who recently put me on to Chuck Carbo's Can I Be your Squeeze, the funkiest thing I've heard in a long, long time. That would be reason enough even if he didn't have the best taste in music on earth.

Zoe at Goldfish Nation, again never playing music that's anything other than superb, and she put me on to The National, for which I'm forever grateful.

Then there's Justin at Kerosene Oyster Hell, a man who loves the most twisted fucked up darkest music ever made and Strawberry Switchblade. I still have a picture of him miming guitar with a cricket bat. Doesn't all that make you want to hear what he's listening to right now?

1 comment:

jusk said...

Ah, Merrick. I finally got around to following up on this - and I've posted my 7. For shame, I haven't gotten around to listening to your 7 yet, largely do the youtube & lastfm blockage in work. But I will, it would be rude not to.

Regards