Hullo. and welcome, my lovelies, to another portion of top pop picks and some thrown together musings. What’s in the bag this week Andrew? Well, I’ll tell you, we have a pedal steel master, a Scandinavian troubadour and a sixties debut from a seventies pop starlet, among other treats for your lugs.
Paulo’s pick this week is a track I very nearly featured last week and indeed, was earmarked for a future edition but he’s beat me to the chase. Well played my very good friend, bandmate and celebrated royal wedding photographer for Princess Michael of Kent.
Ok then, Let’s hear it for the boy..
Track 1. Blind Willie by Sonny Sharrock.
Kicking things off this week we have Sonny Sharrock. Known for his role as one of the first guitarists to work in the free jazz genre, initially harbouring ambitions to be a tenor saxophone master but his asthma prevented this from happening. Sharrock said repeatedly, however, that he still considered himself “a horn player with a really fucked up axe.” This comes from his debut LP ‘Black Woman’ released in 1969 and is an acoustic, funky blues track which may be in tribute to Blind Willie Johnson but perhaps also to Blind Willie McTell. Listen to Sonny’s breathing which is audible throughout the track, the way his phrases are paced is akin to the reed players he idolised.
Track 2. A Postcard to Nina by Jens Lekman.
A long overdue return to the playlist for Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman next. Jens released his fourth LP proper just last week, the superb ‘Life Will See You Now’ which is chock-a-block with eighties pop flourishes and a pleasure from beginning to end. This, however comes from 2007’s ‘Night Falls Over Kortedala’ and recounts the tale of being introduced as the boyfriend of his lesbian friend to her parents, all backed by a wonderful, Motown infused arrangement. Check the delightful animated video below.
Track 3. Summer’s Tide by Fuzzy Lights.
Taken from their third LP, 2013’s ‘Rule Of Twelfths’, this track has a distinct English twist on the Americana sound. The band appear to have been inactive for a few years now and although their website and facebook page is still up and running, there’s no information on forthcoming shows or releases. It would be a great shame if this is the last we’ve heard of a promising homegrown talent.
Track 4. Brains by Lower Dens.
****PAULO’S PICK OF THE WEEK****
This was the second single and standout track from the Baltimore collectives second album, 2010’s ‘Nootropics’. I recall Paul played it to me on one of our Tuesday night get-togethers and I was immediately hooked on its Motorik beat and mantra like vocal. Unfortunately, the rest of their output didn’t grab me as much as this track did which is always a great shame, but I still pull this out from time to time and wallow in its overall greatness.
Track 5. I’m So Proud of My Baby by The Ambassadors.
Formed in the mid-1960’s, this Philly soul vocal group released three singles on Atlantic, this being the b-side of the last of that trio, 1968’s ‘(I’ve Got To Find) Happiness’. They soon came to the attention of Arctic Record Company co-owner and Philly radio star Jimmy Bishop who produced their biggest hit, ‘I Really Love You’ which was released in 1969, as well as their sole, highly sought-after album which is now a holy grail for Northern Soul collectors.
Track 6. Till You Say You’ll Be Mine by Olivia Newton-John.
This single was the ‘Neutron-Bomb’s’ first bite at the fame cherry when it was released on Decca in 1966, a song which was originally recorded by the wonderful Jackie DeShannon and was covered by Merseybeat band The Fourmost before the Aussie songstress had a crack. With its echoed drums, chiming guitar and a great fuzz bass counteracting ONJ’s sweet vocal, it has a primitive wall of sound type production that plants it firmly in its time.
Track 7. Vivid Youth by The Pastels/Tenniscoats.
This next track comes from the collaboration album ‘Two Sunsets’ released in 2009, in which Scottish C86 legends The Pastels teamed up with Japanese avant-garde psych-folkies Tenniscoats. The result is an LP which embraces the differing styles of the two acts, but still manages to find common ground. This track leans more towards the sunny indie that The Pastels made their name with, Katrina Mitchell taking on lead vocal duties.
Track 8. Lunar Nova by Red Rhodes.
A welcome return for Wrecking Crew member and pedal steel genius Orville ‘Red’ Rhodes next and a cut from his fantastically titled 1973 LP ‘Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band’. Rhodes made his name as a session musician in the sixties before teaming up with Michael Nesmith for his post Monkees outfit, ‘The First National Band’. Red is the heart of the three LP’s he made with the cat in the hat, his delicate hands lending the warmth that envelopes Nesmith’s soft, Texan voice. This instrumental found an unlikely lease of life when it was sampled for the 2104 track ‘Don’t Play Me’
by Jet Life featuring Smoke DZA and Curren$y.
Track 9. Little Bit Of Rain by Fred Neil.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m quite sure we featured Karen Dalton’s wonderful cover of this track in a very early edition of NL. That’s not to say that this original version by this weeks cover star is an inferior offering, quite to the contrary. Featured on his 1966 debut LP ‘Bleecker & MacDougal’, this gentle song is an understated joy. From the (then rare for a folk song) electric guitar provided by Pete Childs to Neil’s beautiful baritone, this two and a half minute song oozes steady, measured class.
Track 10. Shake A Hand by Faye Adams.
Our S.S.C this week was a million selling record in 1953, topping the Billboard R&B charts for ten weeks. Like many R&B singers of the time, Adams’ roots lay in the gospel church, one can trace a direct line from her time spent in her fathers Church of God in Christ to her strong vocal performance on this track which was penned by her mentor, trumpeter and band-leader Joe Morris. It has since been covered by numerous acts, most recently cropping up on McCartney’s 1999 covers LP ‘Run, Devil Run’.
Alrighty then, that wraps things up for another week. Don’t forget to join us again for another half an hour or so of platters that matter at the same time and place in seven days time.
Until then, Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.