Hullo. Where did January go? Good riddance to it says I as we lost another soul this week.
Colin Vearncombe aka Black was an obsession of mine when I was 14/15 years old. His tragic passing on Tuesday was another horrible broadside in a month of terrible blows. We pay tribute to him in this weeks playlist.
As we hurtle through this year, thoughts of lighter nights,warmer weather and all the loveliness that goes with it are no longer a distant dream. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a way to go yet, but this week’s selection of super soar away smashers has some summertime blues nestled therein.
Let’s get those cockles warmed..
Track 1. Whitest Boy On The Beach by Fat White Family.
Nasty band this lot, and all the better for it. This, the opening track from their new L.P.,’Songs For Our Mothers’ is the lightest track on a dark, dark album. A squelchy keyboard bass propels it along like some twisted disco work out.
Track 2. Be My Baby by Vanessa Paradis.
I’m not the biggest Lenny Kravitz fan in the world. I hated ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ and that one about butterflies that inexplicably got to number one in the late nineties sets my teeth on edge. But this Spector tribute (in title and wall of sound production) is wonderful. Paradis is the perfect choice for vocalist. She has that detached Gallic air that enhances the whole affair. More France Gall than Ronnie Spector, but you could imagine any 60’s girl group or artist performing this on a crackly old Ed Sullivan clip.
Track 3. Sleep by Simon Dupree and The Big Sound.
‘Kites’ men who went on to become proggers ‘Gentle Giant’ and a psychedelic cut which has paisley painted all over it. They had Dudley Moore as an uncredited performer on one of their records and also used a young Reg Dwight as a touring pianist. One of those outfits whose name you can’t help but pronounce in Brian Mathew’s voice. Go on, try it.
Track 4. Gettin’ Soul Part 1 by Aalon Butler and The New Breed Band.
Deep funk up next with a connoisseur favourite. Check out the unfussy bass which underpins this James Brown type vocal, it’s like he falls asleep on his fender jazz halfway through. All adds to the charm of this late sixties floor filler though.
Track 5. Vento de Maio by Nara Leão
Few genres of music fuel the aching for warmer climes than Latin, and this track makes one pine for a beach and an ice cold Cuba libre in spades. Brazilian Leão is possibly not as well known as Astrud Gilberto, but her voice is certainly up there as one of the best interpreters of Bossa Nova to ever grace this green Earth. I feel like a spell in a hammock.
Track 6. Just Make It Stop by Low.
This comes from their 2013 LP ‘The Invisible Way’ and finds Low being typical Low. Slow buildup, quietly strummed quitars, Mimi’s unmistakeable voice and hushed drumming gathering pace towards a slightly louder climax. So it has been thus for almost 25 years now. As comforting as they’ve always been.
Track 7. Castles In The Air by The Colourfield.
Terry Hall in full romantic mode. Much like Weller’s Style Council, The Colourfield were a bit misunderstood when they first appeared. The mods and rude boys couldn’t get their heads around the new directions their heroes were heading in. Time has been kind to both acts and this gem was well ahead of its 1984 release. Wistful but with Hall’s trademark mean streak, it has echoes of classic sixties songwriting. I can imagine Dusty Springfield would have been perfect for this.
Track 8. Pittsburgh by Ahmad Jamal.
The title track from his 1989 LP, this is Jamal’s tribute to his home town. Seven minutes that went down great driving to work the other morning. If you prefer Chris Evans honking horns at you and talking about cars, that’s your choice, but tracks like this can make a mundane commute not only bearable, but enjoyable.
Track 9. I’d Do It All Again by Corinne Bailey Rae.
I first saw Ms Rae perform this on Jools Hollands Later, not a programme I watch frequently but every now and then I’ll have a peek. She had just lost her husband and the performance she gave was beautiful. I’m not a massive fan,but she says pretty much all she has to say in this song, and that’s a skill.
Track 10. Twat by John Cooper Clarke.
JCC turned 67 the other day. That’s something to be celebrated in itself and to have him still with us is also quite miraculous given his past. He frequently subs on 6 music for various presenter’s and is always excellent value.
Track 11. Cordão de Ouro by Lô Borges.
Back to Brazil we go with something a bit more recent. Borges has been making music for almost fifty years now but still comes up with timeless tunes every few years or so. I discovered him through Gilles Peterson’s excellent Saturday afternoon show, always a refreshing Oasis amongst the sometimes weary daytime output of six records. A fantastic station, but it can get bogged down with white blokes with guitars or dreary female fronted slowcore. Yes, I’m looking at you, Daughter. The xx have a lot to answer forzzzzz..
Track 12. Astral Traveling by Pharaoh Sanders.
Praised by and performed with Sun Ra and John Coltrane, Sanders was also dubbed ‘The best tenor sax player in the world’ by the great Ornette Coleman. Here we find him in full free jazz flow on the opener from his 1971 LP ‘Thembi’.
Track 13. At The Chime Of A City Clock by Nick Drake.
I’m quite sure this is the first time Nick has been featured on NL. If so, he’s long overdue a mention. I don’t think there’s a single Nick Drake track I don’t like. You could argue ‘Man In A Shed’ is a bit slight with some dodgy lyrics but I find it utterly charming. Another stick that Drake is usually beat with is the accusations of miserabilism. I’ve never got that. While his short time with us is undeniably tragic, I never, ever feel miserable when I listen to him. His songs and those three perfect albums are a gift we should cherish with love, not wallow in what could have been. One of the few artists I could listen to any time of day, any time of year.
Track 14. Summer Dress by Ryley Walker.
Lovely. I came across this as it was recommended on a Facebook group I’m a member of. I remember at the time everyone was comparing him to Nick Drake but I couldn’t hear that. He’s obviously MASSIVELY influenced by Tim Buckley, so much so in fact, that if you had played this to me blindly I would swear it was an outtake from 1969’s ‘Happy Sad’. The fact it was recorded and released last year is astonishing, even the album cover harks back to early Van Morrison releases. If I had to level one criticism, it would be his voice is far too close to Buckley’s. Whether that’s by accident or design, I don’t know but it’ll be interesting to see where young Walker goes from here and if he finds his own voice, or indeed that is his own voice. Still lovely though, as I said at the start of this paragraph.
Track 15. I Can’t Believe (What You Say) by Ike & Tina Turner.
I recently re watched the Turner biopic, ‘What’s Love Got To Do WIth It?’ for the first time since its release 23 years ago. It’s still a reasonable watch, with a superb portrayal from Angela Bassett. Above all, it made me reach for their back catalogue again. They were obviously an incendiary partnership, the tension seems to be palpable in all their recordings. Tina’s whispered response to the title in this track from ’64 is quite something. It’s almost as if she want’s to keep it secret from Ike, and given the domestic abuse allegations it’s hard not to understand why. The wife beating bastard.
Track 16. Razor Boy by Steely Dan.
Unfortunatley, The Dan’s Donald Fagen has also recently been under the spotlight for alleged assault. It appears all charges have been dropped so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I was never a follower of Steely Dan until I was advised to check them out by a friend many moons ago. She knew I loved the Beach Boys and insisted I listen to them as they were, in her words, ‘The Beach Boys Of The 70’s’. I’m not sure I agree entirely with that but it certainly piqued my interest and I’ve been a fan ever since. This comes from probably my favourite LP of theirs, the 1973 sophomore release ‘Countdown To Ecstasy’.
Track 17. Oh, No Not My Baby by Maxine Brown.
Maxine Brown with the first recorded version of this Goffin/King masterpiece. Listen to the strings that bed beneath the chorus at 30 seconds, their sadness counterbalances the optimistic lyric and vocal delivery from Brown. Stunning. Rod Stewart also made a perfectly decent fist of this in 1973. Cher in 1992, not so much. Incidentally, the first 8 seconds is ripe for sampling (Get on it Paul D’Cruz!).
Track 18. If It Wasn’t For The Nights by ABBA.
Man, I love ABBA. Forget your cries for The Smiths or Oasis to reform. If these beauts announced they were getting back together, i’d be there, front and centre. This was slated to be the lead single from 1979’s ‘Voulez-Vous’ but was shelved in favour of ‘Chiquitita’. What a mistakertomaker. I do like Chiquitita, but this would have been a dancefloor smash. Closely related to Dancing Queen in style, it has a wonderful chorus hook and those string overdubs that are the hallmark of classic mid-period disco ABBA. A forgotten cracker.
Track 19. Lonely For You, Baby by Sam Dees.
Mid-paced bit of Northern from Sam Dees. Probably the only tempo NS I could dance to these days.
Track 20. Sweetest Smile by Black.
This was the first thing I heard from Colin Vearncombe back in 1987 and I fell for it immediately. I think Black were cool at school for a couple of months or so back then, but I became a bit obsessed for a couple of years. From around that time ’til 88’s ‘Comedy’ I listened to little else.
Around this time, there was a competition in our local paper to win tickets to see him at Newcastle City Hall, and having no income and pocket money that wouldn’t stretch to the price of a grown up gig ticket, it was my only real chance of getting to see my hero in the flesh. I don’t know why, but I remember being totally convinced that I would win the tickets and when I did I accepted it as the natural course of the universe. A couple of coach-only tickets secured from the other record shop and our Chris and I were on the way to our first ever gig. They (He) were marvellous. Self effacing, gracious, and flipping heck, what a voice. I still remember the highlight of the show was a cover of Smokey Robinson’s ‘Tracks Of My Tears’, it was totally unexpected, the 14 year old me was blown away.
As I grew out of sophisticated pop and onto pastures new, I left Black behind, and, save for a few drunken reminisces and revisits from time to time, i’d hardly listened to them at all in over 25 years. The news of Colin’s accident a few weeks back brought back those fond memories and how I fell in love with live music that April night all those years ago. I vowed to see him again once he made a full recovery and was back on the road.. His death on Tuesday was awful, awful news. It would have been special to see him one more time just to thank him and let him know he was loved, now it’s too late. Safe passage Colin.
That’s this week, and January done with. ’til next time.