Hullo. So 2016 continued to be a massive arsehole and robbed us of yet more legends last week. Whilst not as tragically early as some other losses this year, the death of Leonard Cohen still leaves us with another genius shaped hole on this wretched planet. We pay tribute in this weeks playlist.
Although perhaps not as well known as Mr Cohen, we also lost Leon Russell this week. We’ll take time to remember his many contributions to popular music too.
But let’s not dwell on bad news, it’s Friday! and here we are with another twenty pop picks that will hopefully go some way to replanting that lovely smile of yours.
Paulo is here of course with his pick of the week. This time around my very good friend, bandmate and winner of best of breed at Crufts in 1976 has selected an act that’s no stranger to the playlist, but always more than welcome.
Ok, let’s move on ‘cos it’s time to groove on..
Track 1. Armageddon Days Are Here Again by The The.
We begin on a cheery note from Matt Johnson’s third LP, 1989’s ‘Mind Bomb’. After the madness that went down across the pond last week, this was one of the first tunes I reached for and decided it had to make an appearance on this weeks playlist. This track, and its parent album also features Johnny Marr who began his rent-an-axe journey here after The Smiths dissolved, more of him later…
Track 2. Wine In A Teacup by Anna Hillburg.
San Franciscan singer songwriter Hillburg released her debut self titled album in 2013 after session work for local bands The Dodos and The Fresh and Only’s. A multi instrumentalist, the LP flips from style to style according to her fancy. This particular track has an easy going indie feel that bounces along in a thoroughly pleasant manner.
Track 3. Passersby by Quilt.
Taken from the Boston based bands third LP ‘Plaza’ which was released earlier this year, here we have a jangly piece of dream pop that compliments our previous track nicely. Their singer/guitarist, Anna Fox Rochinski explains the piece thus.. ‘This song was written several years ago. It is meant to be a simple reflection on the passing strangers in a public space, with lush orchestration and an alternate guitar tuning to give it a darker atmosphere. The lyrics of the song are built around a fleeting moment of eye contact with a stranger in passing- “knowing eyes of passersby gaze into mine”. I think of it as a soundscape with a little poem inside of it.’ Nicely put.
Track 4. Wali Bena by Muyei Power.
Muyei Power or Orchestre Muyei (muyei means ‘our country’) was one of the top dance bands of the 1970s in Sierra Leone. Producing a handful of singles with no album releases, they remained unavailable for thirty five years after the band split in 1979. Our old friends at Soundway rescued the tracks and reissued them on a compilation a few years back. For this we are all thankful. It would have been a massive shame if nobody had the chance to dance to this premium afrobeat again.
Track 5. Words To My Song by Dry Bread.
More excellent digging from the Numero group next with Bahamian artist Cyril ‘Dry Bread’ Ferguson. This was a b-side to his 1974 single ‘Yamar’ and is an ode to writers block. Check out the breaks.
Track 6. She Came This Way by Derek See.
American guitarist, singer songwriter and producer Derek See has, among other strings to his bow, had a stint as tour tech for Stooges guitarist James Williamson. It’s easy to hear the psychedelia that has rubbed off on him on this single release from 2013, it’s steeped in late sixties touches. His passion for that decade can also be found at his excellent website, ‘Derek’s Daily 45’ which is a fantastic resource for info about singles from the period. No vid, soz.
Track 7. Safe And Sound by Justice.
Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay release their third LP today and this is the lead track from it which dropped in early summer. On the strength of this slap bass heavy neo disco wonderment and indeed, their latest release, the superb ‘Randy’ it seems we are in for a treat. Along with their compatriots Daft Punk, Justice are proof that for style AND substance, the French are still hard to beat.
Track 8. Forbidden City by Electronic.
Our cover stars this week are a supergroup that sound-tracked my summer of 1991 with their excellent self titled debut. I’ve mentioned before that I never really cared for The Smiths but always admired Johnny Marr. When he teamed up with New Order’s Bernard Sumner for this project all was forgiven, freed from the shackles of the bequiffed one, his obvious love of all things dance was allowed to flower. This particular track was the lead single from their second effort, 1996’s ‘Raise The Pressure’ which didn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of the debut but still had flashes of brilliance thanks in no small part to the involvement of Kraftwerks Karl Bartos who co-wrote this and another five tracks on the album.
Track 9. Eurocrime! by Calibro 35.
This Italian cinematic funk band have been a going concern since 2007 when they got together to record covers of 1970’s soundtracks by the genre’s Maestros such as Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovajoli and Luis Bacalov. This comes from their first self titled LP released in 2008 and is perfect for driving. You may want to grow a handlebar ‘tache and pop on some aviators and a beige suit just to complete the whole façade. Props to my diminutive pal James Dryden for the introduction.
Track 10. Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache by Jane Aire And The Belvederes.
This song first came to my attention as the flip side to Dexy’s 1980 smash ‘Geno’ which in turn was a cover of the 1968 single release from Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon. Here, we have a feminine take on the track from Stiff records artists Jane Aire And The Belvederes whose drummer Jon Moss went on to further fame with Culture Club.
Track 11. A Song For You by Leon Russell.
Leon Russell touched some of the greatest records of the twentieth century, in his time as part of the famous Wrecking Crew, he appeared on all the usual suspects including ‘Pet Sounds’ and the daddy of them all, ‘Be My Baby’. As well as his famous mentorship of Elton John he released solo records under his own name and under a country alias ‘Hank Wilson’ and enjoyed a long and illustrious career. This track opens his 1970 self titled debut LP and was consequently covered by a plethora of acts ranging from The Carpenters to Ray Charles. Leon passed away in his sleep last weekend, he was 74.
Track 12. Tony’s Theme by The Pixies.
****PAULO’S PICK OF THE WEEK****
One of the many artists influenced by Russell is Pixies front-man Black Francis: ‘I realize there’s a certain kind of vocalizing I do that takes its cue from Leon Russell. He sang in a southern accent but it was very blown-out and exaggerated, very free and loose.’
Track 13. Tumblers To The Vault by Syrinx.
This Canadian prog trio were active from 1970-72 and released two albums, both filled with experimental early electronica such as this, the opener to their sophomore release, ‘Long Lost Relatives’.
Track 14. Black Hanz by The Moonlandingz.
The Moonlandingz began life as a concept conceived by Sheffield electro-duo Eccentronic Research Council before drafting in two of Fat White Family to front the fictitious band and take it on tour. Raucous live dates followed and an album is slated for release early next year. The video below, recorded at this years SXSW festival in Austin is just a taster of the madness. I’m not entirely sure if they’re taking the piss or not. Either way, it’s great fun.
Track 15. Light Shines Through by Gumball.
As I had a long train journey to London recently, I ducked into WH Smith and purchased a music magazine for the first time in about a decade. Attached to the front was one of those compilation CD’s they use to hawk their wares and this was one of the tracks featured. I’d never heard of Gumball up to this point but on the strength of this track I’ll definitely be investigating their back catalogue. Again, no vid unfortunately..
Track 16. Borinquen Me Llama by Louie Ramirez.
Ok, let’s warm up these cold November nights with a dose of pure sunshine courtesy of ‘The Quincy Jones Of Samba’. Guaranteed to have you up out of your armchair and swinging those hips like nobody’s business, this comes from his 1978 LP ‘Louie Ramirez y sus amigos’ and translates as ‘Puerto Rico Calls Me’. Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen – a derivation of Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name, which means ‘Land of the Valiant Lord’.
Track 17. So Long, Marianne by Leonard Cohen.
I came relatively late to Leonard Cohens music. Although I’d been aware of him since my late teens it wasn’t until I was around 24 that I gave him my full attention. I was paying a visit to my then girlfriend (now wife) who was studying at University in Stoke On Trent and, while she was at a lecture, I killed some time in Hanley town centre. I happened to fall into a branch of Andy’s Records and saw his greatest hits at the knockdown price of a fiver so I took a punt to see what all the fuss was about. Listening to it on the train home on a rainy Sunday night complimented those wonderful melancholic songs perfectly. He never really left my side after that. I dipped in and out of his relatively small back catalogue and eventually ‘Death Of A Ladies Man’ with its Spector produced madness became my favourite over-all work of his. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go for the first song which made my ears prick up on that lonely ride back to the North East on a gloomy Sunday in 1998. I was fortunate enough to catch his set at Glastonbury in 2008 and again, it was on a Sunday tea-time that the great man healed me after an exhausting and emotional five days at the festival, although this time the weather was far more clement. I laid on the grass and let that voice caress and soothe me. Not many people have this power, Leonard did. His passing at 82 years old last week leaves this world a poorer place.
Track 18. I Almost Lost My Mind by Pat Boone.
Jarvis Cocker paid tribute to Leonard on his excellent Sunday Service show on BBC Radio 6 last Sunday. Along with selected songs from the great man himself, he read out a passage from his first novel, 1963’s ‘The Favourite Game’. After he recited the section where LC describes driving through the Canadian night listening to Pat Boone singing ‘I Almost Lost My Mind’, he played that very record and I listened, enraptured. Again, it was a Sunday tea-time.
Track 19. Darling, I’m Standing By You by Jeanette Jones.
Keeping with the sombre mood, you get two Soul slowies this week, although our first is a bit more of a mid tempo waltz. Jeanette Jones, like many other Soul singers came from a gospel background and you can hear her testify on this 1969 single. She gave up on the music industry soon after when the 1000 pressing of this fantastic record failed to sell out. Inevitably, it’s now a rare collectors piece.
Track 20. Let Me In Your Life by Esther Phillips.
Our final track is from an artist who had two bites of the cherry. After scoring number one singles in the fifties, her success soon led to drug abuse before she cleaned up her act in the sixties, releasing some superb soul records, most notably her interpretation of Jimmy Radcliffe’s ‘Try Me’. This comes from her 1972 LP ‘Alone Again, Naturally’ and showcases that wonderful vibrato voice. Unfortunately, Esther’s drug dependency returned and she passed away in 1984 aged just 48.
Well. That all began and ended on quite a bummer note didn’t it? Maybe it’s the state of the world today that makes us reach for those sad songs to try and make sense of it all.
Don’t worry, I’ll try and pick some more upbeat fayre for NL No.54. Christ knows we need to party. Speaking of parties, why not join, contribute to and enjoy our facebook page here?
I’ll see you next week, same time, same place.
Until then, Smile, though Your heart is aching.