Monday, February 28, 2005
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
When I did my recent, inconsequential piece on Mr Phil Manzanera I mentioned, in passing, one of the all time "guitar-gods": Carlos Santana (well, he played long solos at Woodstock so I suppose that description fits). In point of fact, the very first LP I ever owned was "Carlos Santana / Buddy Miles Live", of all things! Now, that is obviously a complete ruination of a record, even if my young mind thought that it was just the best thing ever made. I pored over it's lengthy instrumental breaks like a mad monk covetting the Book Of Kells. Luckily my 2nd purchase was Lou Reed's "Transformer" and so, at last, I was on track for a glam teen age. All the young dudes, ahoy!
Still and all it reverberated with me so heavily at the time that, fairly soon, I also bought "Caravanserai", Santana's 4th and greatest album. So, after stomping around to Gary Glitter, The Sweet and Bowie, I could let myself down easily with a long, cool side of latin inspiration:
mp3: Look Up (To See What's Coming Down)
mp3: Song Of The Wind
mp3: Stone Flower
All of these tracks are gorgeous, funky, organ and guitar driven jams (with some passable vocals). They're obviously on the same planet as the 1st 3 Santana albums - lots of South American rhythms and chord progressions - but the influence of jazz just makes them all the more inviting. But, just as I like it, this is the kind of mutated jazz that doesn't hound my brain into a corner.
The things I like most are :
- the all-pervasive Hammond organ playing by Gregg Rolie, luscious and subtle on all the tracks
- the liquid, sinuous guitar solo in "Song of the Wind" (when I finally got a cd version of this album at the end of the 90s I sang along to every single note in this damn solo even though I hadn't heard it in 25 years: yes, every single nuanced note. It had been grafted into my brain oh so long ago and had re-appeared fully known, as if I'd memorised it only yesterday)
- the 'power' chords in "Stone Flower" (my first ever taste of Jobim too)
Santana's albums are available everywhere - buy them.
Friday, February 18, 2005
sample-less examples of things recently acquired
birchville cat motel - long vanished spirals : screeching, noise-based 'ambient', not for the faint of heart and, mostly, not for me - i can't imagine a time i'd ever want to put this on
bloc party - silent alarm : so will someone please tell modern bands that slavish re-appraisal of past sounds does not add up to something inventive, no matter how dedicated the singer feels
the books - lost and safe : the 1st great dissapointment of 2005. after 2 wonderfull, joyous albums, this one sounds like they're simply doing it all over again
family fodder - monkey banana kitchen : after d.leone's use of this band in the voigt/465 review i thought i'd give it a go but as soon as that dumb-ass white boy reggae riddum starts up i shuddered
morton feldman - piano and string quartet : i fond it impossible to put a clinical gaze on his work - not that i like it so much, just that nothing ever comes to mind
the heavy blinkers - the night and i are so young : talking about slavish - this bunch have that 60s sunshine pop sound all down pat... except for the fucking melodies, guys!
jeans team - musik von oben : starts promisingly in a post-kraftwerk kinda way and then gets lost in it's own lack of focus
the residents - the commercial album : a complete hoot from go to whoa - it may just be their best
roxy music - first kiss : double cd bootleg of bbc recordings (mainly). great stuff, if just to make you realize that, live, they could be as half-assed as anyone else
scritti politti - early : did they take the title from my 5 year old vinyl compile? those last 2 tracks are definitely different to any version i own and the sound is excellent - well rounded and bass laden
status quo - xs all areas : no, i have no idea why i downloaded this. and it took me ages as well. i must admit to a willingness to love this stuff despite all it's flaws (and there are many of them)
lewis taylor - the lost album : if only he was like this all the time. ie more todd and less r&b. sometimes plodding but never less than enthused
various artists - best of moog : in one word - fab
martha wainwright - bloody mother fucking asshole : lets hope the album is as good as the best of this fairly slight ep
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Sunday, February 13, 2005
I've never knelt at the altar of the rock guitarist (unlike many men of my age). Hendrix was histrionic, Clapton was laid back and bluesy (ugh) and Santana was just too spiritual for me to handle. (And, yes, I do know that these are exactly some of the things that draw people to them). I can listen to their music and enjoy quite a lot of it but the whole guitar hero thing has always struck me as slightly ridiculous - as if hitting some strings with a plectrum is going to change the world or something.
But there was a small time frame in the mid 70s when I bought just about everything that Phil Manzanera played on and that was due in no small part to some kind of mystical transportation I received when listening to the sounds he (and Eno) were able to produce.
So please forgive me my little bit of 6 string worship - I was just a young thing after all.
mp3: Roxy Music - Amazona
This track always epitomised "Stranded" for me. The slightly funky verse section and the denser 'chorus' and break always seemed to perfectly encapsulate the mood of the cover (the red-haired model cast-away in the middle of the jungle - shouldn't she be on a beach?). There's at least 6 guitar overdubs that I can hear: from compact rhythm to dubby one-note counterpoint via synth-embelished washes and a longish solo that shows just how close Santana was to his own heart.
mp3: John Cale - Fear (ps - 8mg)
After Eno departed Roxy, Manzanera continued to be friends and they played on many of each other's projects. The most obvious of these is the guitar stuff on this track from Cale's 1st album for Island. It's completely over the top in all respects but fits the clasutrophobia of the song perfectly. Manzanera is everywhere again - the simple riff that slowly mutates into weird half tones, the heavy power chords on the chorus and then the two lengthy solos where all those years of Enosification on the road and in the studio result in something that sounded completely foreign.
mp3: Phil Manzanera - Frontera
This is one of the standout tracks from his 1st solo album "Diamond Head", co-written and sung by Robert Wyatt. There's a bell-like quality to a lot of the rhythm guitar that I hadn't noticed before and the chords are just lovely. Lots of overdubs again but, as always, they have a specific place and don't clutter up the mix one little bit. Nonsense lyrics, apparently.
mp3: Eno - The True Wheel
Most of this track from "Taking Tiger Mountain" is just Eno by himself (all those gorgeous modulated resonances). But Manzanera makes himself most obvious on the tripled riff in the middle section - a riff that none of my guitar playing friends could seem to replicate despite it's simplicity, damn them. His contribution to the whole of this album is extensive if settled into the background.
I lost interest in his playing after Eno went in other directions and left Manzanera standing there with just that damned guitar for company and with Ferry breathing down his neck to tone down his style for the new, MOR Roxy Music. He's released many solo albums since then, most of which are fairly dull, including his latest "6PM" even if this is a slight return to some sort of form (but, it must be said, he really shouldn't sing).
All of these albums are available at your local record store or via the internet - go get 'em.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
McGarrigle / Wainwright - Enmore Thatre, Sydney Feb 7 2005
Although Loudon's 'ghost' was evident all night, that was hardly the reason I went to this concert. Instead, I demanded some old style crooning, some down-home rootsy keening and some soft, sincere expositions of the soul. I needed to hear the movement of the family's sound through the past years - a history lesson in self entertainment turning into musicianship and finally becoming personal interpretation. There's very little to compare in the styles of the older and younger siblings and some would feel that this was to the detriment of the whole night but the slightly jarring contradictions in material were perfect for me. You could hear a mid-70s track from Kate and Anna (still played and sung with great emotion) then an over the top version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Rufus and then an excoriating attack by Martha on herself. But then I was up near the front and so the mixing problems that seemed to mar the event were largely minimized by the close contact to the performers.
Highlights were many but here's just a few: Kate's understated and touching piano accompaniments all though the night; Martha's 1st solo song (whose title I can't remember) which had a soft bluesy feel and a slightly strange melody; Rufus' strident version of "Poses" and all four re-doing their version of Cohen's "Who By Fire" from the previous week. And, ofcourse, the warmth and clumsiness of the on-stage participation which endeared them to me wholeheartedly.
Martha Wainwright's official site hosts some mp3s from her latest EP "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole" (which unsurprisingly is all about her dad). She has an album coming out in the next couple of months and it should be excellent if it includes any of the songs she sang this night.
Kate and Anna's slightly confusing official site has music all through it. I must get more of their releases.
As does Rufus Wainwright's official site. He's a card and a great crooner.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Love Is Everything
Jane Siberry's PR face has always had this weird painted doll look, crossed with a touch of royal blankness. You'll see her staring fixedly out of the covers of her albums as if she's no more than a mannequin and, most often, her gaze is averted as if her she's worried about being the new Medusa (and looking at the hair in the picture above, maybe that's exactly what should concern her).
All of which proves nothing, ofcourse, as her music is warm, layered and personal, tinged with wry sadness and an occasional smile. Unfortunately she's Canadian and so , like all other female singer-songwriters from this country, is always compared back to Joni Mitchell with whom she shares very little, either lyrically or sonically. But that's life in the bad old music biz, eh?
mp3: Bound By The Beauty
This is the title track from her 3rd album and the template's firmly in place. A keening, angelic voice with a slight country twang; melodies that seem to come straight out of the air; a sympathetic, professional band (who lean too far onto the side of good manners) and lyrics that are obviously personal but whose full meanings are hidden behind complication.
mp3: Sail Across The Water
One of the Eno produced tracks from her most well known album "When I Was A Boy" where she discusses, ad-infinitum, all the aspects of love she can possibly think of. The song builds quietly for a long time then expands gently and then continues building again. Another gorgeous melody, right on the cusp of M.O.R., just where I like 'em.
mp3: Honey Bee
After the success of her last album she reacts by making an album full of jazz inflections with a small, intimate band that ends with a short verion of "mary had a little lamb" followed by 2 minutes of silence and then a 20 minute improvisation called "oh my my". The record company released it but let her go and so she started her own internet based record company - Sheeba.
mp3: Up The Loggin' Road
By this stage I'd become slightly obsessed with Ms Siberry and so purchased her "New York Trilogy" of live recordings hoping for a return to the less jazzy song based music I adored. But this hope was only to be partially realized. ...Road is an infectious song of joy and memory that sits amongst a lot of arty performance stuff which doesn't really connect with me. (nb - the mp3 doesn't fade out)
After this she seemed to go into areas that I neither wanted to hear nor was interested to follow - Christmas songs, choral music, lullabys. It all seemed so dissapointing, really. I suppose should go out and buy her early albums but can't raise my head above the years of ennui.
Jane Sibery's official website is here. It's a messy labyrinth but well worth a look. All her CDs are currently available.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
As is so often the case, I must eat some of my hasty words. I enjoyed the Leonard Cohen evening so much that I went back to the cds to try and find the songs I'd particularly liked. I still can't get into those first 2 releases - all those slow, droopy songs fill me with a desire to break the cd player - but 1974's "New Skin For Old Ceremony" is rather good. There's still a few tracks where Leonard drones on alone with his guitar and depression but even these seem more lively than on previous outings. Most often, however, the arrangements are sparse but played and sung energetically and the tunes seem more obvious somehow:
mp3: Lover Lover Lover
And then there's ones where his doomy voice stays the same as it always has but the backing vocals and music actually enhance the effect:
mp3: Who By Fire
So, words eaten and feeling much better thanks you. I still couldn't come at "Dear Heather", though.
One thing I also noticed was just how much Peter Blegvad sounds like him! Because of my limited LC listening, I'd always thought that PB's naggingly familiar solo vocal style came directly from too much Bob Dylan. But it's pretty obvious now that he has dedicatedly supplicated himself at the altar of Cohen:
mp3: Strong Simple Silences
It's always been a lovely song and he does have his own style but, sigh, now I'll listen to it with a tinge of sadness that one of my part-time favourites (I go through stages of love and hate for Blegvad) will be ever more slightly diminished.