Hullo. So here we go again with twenty more hand-picked beauties. This week, there’s a twenty minute jazz piece which I’ve been holding back ’til this time of year rolled around. Now, I appreciate it’s not for everyone, but give it a go, you might discover you like it. If you don’t, that’s fine. Wrong. But fine.
And of course, Paulo’s Pick Of The Week in which my very good friend, bandmate and legal advisor to the late Bernie Winters, Paul D’Cruz puts another dime in the jukebox, baby.
So, lets put on our red shoes and dance the blues..
Track 1. Call 1-800-Fear by Lali Puna.
****PAULO’S PICK OF THE WEEK****
Woosh! Straight in there with Uncle Pastie’s choice for this weeks list.
Munich based electropop band Lali Puna aren’t exactly prolific, they’ve managed two albums in twelve years, and the last of those was released six years ago. Quality over quantity wins every time though and this, from their 2004 debut, is definitely quality. Another fine selection from Mr D’Cruz, he just keeps pulling them out of the bag!
Track 2. Walkin’ Down The Line by Hamilton Camp.
Dylan penned railroad song, recorded by Brit folkie Camp in 1964. Hamilton had a double life as an actor and voice artist which such diverse entries on his CV as Starsky & Hutch, Star Trek and a vampire on Scooby Doo. Here he gives a skiffley rendition that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Lonnie Donegan LP.
Track 3. Nabu Corfa by Dorothy Ashby.
The harp isn’t the first instrument you would associate with Jazz. The ethereal sounds it makes are a world away from your brass and piano. That didn’t stop Ashby who recorded with the greats as well as more popular artists such as Stevie Wonder and Billy Preston. Here she is with one of her own compositions from 1965 and it’s gorgeous.
Track 4. Boute by Au.
Portlander Luke Wyland is Au (pronounced ‘Ay-Yoo’ apparently). This comes from his debut album from 2007 and builds wonderfully. Shades of early Animal Collective abound, particularly in the percussion but it’s that incessant piano motif that burrows into your noggin.
Track 5. Canary Island by Houndstooth.
Staying in Portland but moving on six years, next we have Houndstooth with a track that was all over six records three years ago. Time has been kind however and a piece of music that was overplayed at the time of release has now become a modern classic. Lead vocalist Katie Bernstein’s voice is a thing of hypnotic beauty, complimenting that hooky, nimble guitar. Proof that over-familiarity can irk, but distance can heal.
Track 6. Skull & Crossbones by Sparkle Moore With Dan Belloc And His Orchestra.
A Rockabilly classic from 1956 next. Sparkle Moore was a pioneer in early Rock n Roll. She only released a handful of records before retiring to raise a family but her influence is palpable. Listen to the cadence in her voice, there’s an innocence and unpolished approach that can be heard in later female punk singers such as the much missed Poly Styrene and Bow-Wow-Wow’s Annabella Lwin.
Track 7. Loose Change by Magic Tramps.
Proto punk from a band that had close links to Warhols Factory scene. Lead vocalist Eric Emerson starred in a number of Andy’s films and was originally featured on the rear cover of The Velvet Undergound’s seminal debut. This is great stuff, seemingly recorded live it has some superb violin work courtesy of Lary Chaplan which melts into some spectacular lead guitar. Emerson was found dead next to his Bicycle in 1975, no verdict has ever been returned on his death with theories ranging from hit and run to the body having been purposefully dumped after a heroin overdose.
Track 8. Tezeta by Mulatu Astatke.
The father of Ethio-Jazz, Astatke blended the latin jazz he had studied in Europe and the states with rhythms from his native east Africa. This is a beautiful piece with an easy vibe, truly music for the soul.
Track 9. This American Life by Salvia Plath.
Baltimore musician Michael Collins released the first album under the ‘Salvia Plath’ moniker in 2013, a sixties influenced psych pop jumble which had some solid songs as well as moochy meandering. Fortunately, this is one of the former. Beginning with a steadily strummed acoustic guitar it soon opens up with handclaps and some beautiful harmonising, Sunny, fun and addictive it should have been a massive summertime radio hit.
Track 10. Monkey See, Monkey Do by New Swing Sextet.
Sixties latin swing combo from New York, this has a Tito Puente feel to it. Close your eyes and you’re in a Cuban bar with the warm night air fused with cigar smoke and Havana club flowing like water. Summer in a nutshell.
Track 11. Moon Deluxe by Andrew Cedermark.
Our good friend and weekly contributor, Paul D’Cruz first brought this chap to my attention. Former guitarist with New Jersey band Titus Andronicus, he set out on his own in 2010 with the LP this is the title track from. Gloriously noisy guitars and drums still make way for a glockenspiel to shine through, Cedermark’s vocals a woozy counterbalance to the crashing noises he has created. He followed this up with a sophomore effort ‘Home Life’ in 2013 and whilst it’s a more downbeat affair, you could do a lot worse than to give it your attention.
Track 12. No More Affairs by Tindersticks.
Tindersticks’ frontman Stuart A Staples has one of the most distinctive voices in indie rock. It can be an acquired taste but once you open up to that low, nasal drawl it is a pleasure you want more of. I bought this single on release in 1995 and remember playing it repeatedly late at night, such was my state of mind at the time. It helped and continues to do so some twenty years later.
Track 13. Begin The Beguine by Ella Fitzgerald.
Has anyone had such an expressive and effortless vocal style as the first lady of song? That pure as silk tone is put to beautiful use here on Cole Porter’s classic.
Track 14. Not For Me by Honey Ltd.
Another rediscovery by the bods at the excellent Light In The Attic records. This all girl group were signed by the legendary Lee Hazlewood in the late sixties and immediately put to work on a debut album backed by The Wrecking Crew, who this instrumental album closer is by. After the LP flopped, the girls stuck around for another couple of years before disbanding in 1970.
Track 15. Midnight Owl by The Moondoggies.
Taken from their third, and to date, last album ‘Adios, I’m A Ghost’ this is a track very much in the same vein as Fleet Foxes. Lovely harmonies, exquisite guitar work, Seattle, beards.
Track 16. Tico Tico by Billy Vaughn.
Big band Latin piece from 1958. Vaughn was an American band leader, singer and multi instrumentalist who taught himself the mandolin at three years of age. Jesus, at three years old I was just about mastering not crapping myself!
Track 17. Hard-Boiled Babe by Lizzy Mercier Descloux.
Taken from her 1979 debut ‘Press Color’, this is a classic example of the No-Wave scene. A close friend of punk pioneers Richard Hell and Patti Smith, Descloux moved to NYC from Paris in 1977. Underappreciated in her time, she is now recognised as a groundbreaking, ahead of the curve artist. Hardly surprising, as this 37 year old track is incredibly contemporary. As is so often the case, she never got to see her influence borne out. Lizzy passed away from cancer in 2004 aged just 47.
Track 18. Springtime by Eric Dolphy.
And so we come to the jazz track I mentioned in this weeks introduction. This isn’t the first time I’ve included Eric Dolphy on NL, and I’ll put money on it not being the last. Recorded weeks before Dolphy’s untimely death in 1964, this also features the legendary Charles Mingus on bass. Obviously the title is the reason I’ve been holding off until this time of year, but just listen to Eric’s bass Clarinet. Those opening notes give us the impression of new shoots poking through. Apparently Dolphy would answer the birds with his instrument as a youth. He carried on this fascination with nature right up to his final days.
Track 19. Friends And Neighbors by Ornette Coleman.
Because ‘That’s where it’s at’.
Track 20. Hope She’ll Be Happier by Bill Withers.
Closing proceedings this time around is this weeks cover star. When I was 16 and consequently old enough to join the Brittania music club, the first LP I ordered was ‘The Best Of Bill Withers’. An artist I still love to this day, this is from his 1971 debut ‘Just As I Am’ which was produced and arranged by Booker T Jones. This track was recently covered by James Blake, and whilst he does a marvellous job, no-one comes close to Bill. That voice, man.
There you have it. You’ve got two weeks in which to wallow in this edition of NL as I’m off on a well-deserved holibob.
Who knows, I may even bring back some interesting Portuguese sounds with me.
Until then, stand, in the end you’ll still be you.