Hullo. Another N.L. on the road this week as you join me in sunny/windy/rainy North Wales. I’d love to regale you with tales of the vibrant, exciting hub that is Wrexham but it isn’t, so I can’t. Although I did get to see Hartlepool United grind out a goal-less draw at the Racecourse Stadium on an exceptionally soggy Tuesday night. If that experience isn’t a metaphor for this sorry forgotten town, then I don’t know what is.
Still, here to lighten up your quickly darkening nights is the playlist and blog that will always be a rainbow in the greyest of skies. And Paul is of course here to add further colour to our broad spectrum. This week, my very good friend, bandmate and curator of the national museum of novelty tea-pots takes us back to 2013, which by sheer coincidence is also the same year we alight on in my long goodbye to Leeds feature.
So, lord, let it rain on me, let it all come down..
Track 1. At My Most Beautiful by R.E.M.
Everybody has their favourite period R.E.M. For me it began with 1991’s ‘Out Of Time’ and the massive hit ‘Losing My Religion’ which was my entry point. I came late to the Georgian alt-rockers but was mildly obsessed with them for a month or so before my head was turned by all things Seattle and I gently placed them in the file marked ‘Like’. They went on to release quality albums for the rest of their lifespan including the masterpiece that is ‘Automatic For The People’ but there’s also lots to admire in their later output including this beautiful third single from 1998’s ‘Up’. Written as a homage to the Beach Boys, it is lush with harmonies and is unusually straight-forward for a band who mainly erred on the side of oblique.
Track 2. Love And Death by Ebo Taylor.
Ebo Taylor has been a vital figure on the Ghanaian music scene for over six decades. In the late ’50s he was active in the influential highlife bands the Stargazers and the Broadway Dance Band and worked with that colossus of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti, in the sixties. This is the title track from his first internationally released LP which was distributed through Strut Records in 2010. A grooving piece despite its melancholic subject matter, it could have been recorded at any point in the past fifty years.
Track 3. King Shiv by Man Man.
****PAULO’S PICK OF THE WEEK****
This experimental rock band from Philadelphia are a new one on me although they have been around for almost fifteen years now. This track comes from their last release to date the 2013 LP ‘On Oni Pond’. A slightly dubby joint this one, with leader and keys-man Honus Honus coming across as a sort of proto John Grant. Another quality selection from the man-chld D’Cruz.
Track 4. Better Friends by Ela Orleans.
Hailing from Poland and currently living in New York, Ela Orleans has been making records since 1991 with a prolific spurt of activity in the last 10 years or so. This is from her 2009 album ‘Lost’ and is atypical of her output being that it is built on layered atmospherics with deep shades of the Velvet Underground, not only in its John Cale-esque drone but also the vocal which aims for Nico but comes off more Moe Tucker. This is no bad thing by any stretch.
Track 5. Death Cream Part 2 (Watch Out For The Cream) by Sonny & The Sunsets.
West-coast story-teller Sonny Smith is no stranger to these parts having notched up a brace of appearances on the playlist in the past. This time around, he’s back with a sequel to his 2009 track ‘Death Cream’. Taken from last years LP ‘Moods Baby Moods’ this has the stamp of its producer tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus who brings her gift of sonic trickery to compliment and enhance the Californian’s laconic style.
Track 6. You’re All That Matters by Billy Taylor.
Taylor is probably most well known for his civil rights anthem ‘I Wish That I Knew How It Feels To Be Free’, a tune memorably covered by Nina Simone and the title music to the BBC’s movie magazine ‘Film…’. In a rich career he recorded dozens of LP’s with his trio comprising of Doug Watkins on bass and sticks-man Ray Mosca, including 1961’s ‘Interlude’. This comes from said record and showcases Billy’s deft touch perfectly, his improvisational style owing a certain debt to his mentor, the great Art Tatum.
Track 7. My Children by Protomartyr.
Released just last month, this is the second single to be lifted from the Detroit post-punk outfit’s fourth LP ‘Relatives in Descent’. Vocalist Joe Casey is on the record as having expressed appreciation for Joy Division, Pere Ubu and the Fall and this influence is readily recognisable on this track. There’s definite parallels in his half arsed baritone delivery and the guitar work of Greg Ahee bears uncanny similarities to Craig Scanlon. Mark E Smith once said that bands tend to copy The Fall when they’ve run out of ideas. I say if you’re going to copy anyone, Copy The Fall.
Track 8. Colour My World by Petula Clark.
Our cover star this week is a voice I recall fondly from my childhood. ‘Our Pet’ was born Sally Olwen Clark in 1934 and became a child star on BBC radio at the age of nine. During the forties and fifties she also launched a film career starring alongside such luminaries as Alec Guinness and Anthony Newley as well as branching out into the European pop market recording in French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. The sixties were her high water mark however and with an incredible run of joyous pop songs penned by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, she cemented her reputation as a national treasure. This single attempted to emulate the success of the magnificent ‘Downtown’ but failed to chart and was considered a flop at the time. For my money, it’s easily up there with it and there’s lots to love here, particularly the none-more-66 usage of the sitar. Ms. Clark is still performing today at the ripe old age of 84, her voice undimmed by time.
Track 9. Contact by Daft Punk.
So we reach 2013 in my Long Goodbye To Leeds feature, this house move better gain traction soon as I’m quickly running out of years to look back on! This was the album of that year and despite the ubiquity of the Pharrell Williams fronted, Nile Rodgers riffing smash ‘Get Lucky’ it remains an astonishing record. I have loved Daft Punk since their inception but nothing prepared me for this none more disco solid gold platter. It was on a clear M1 at around four in the morning that I gave it it’s debut spin and with the volume pumped to the max I recall the goosebumps remained for the full 75 minutes running time. By the time I reached this, the albums closer, those pimples were fit to explode. Built around a sample of “We Ride Tonight” by Australian rock band The Sherbs, the song also includes audio from the Apollo 17 mission, courtesy of NASA and Captain Eugene Cernan. But it’s those drums masterfully thumped by Omar Hakim that made my foot depress the accelerator, oh man, those drums.
Track 10. Need To Belong by Jerry Butler.
Our Soul Slowie closer this week comes courtesy of former Impressions frontman Jerry Butler. Released in 1963, this 45 didn’t make any big waves on the hit parade but was a song that received considerable airplay in the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy, Disc-Jockey’s believing its mournful but hopeful message could help heal a broken nation. I wonder what they’d play if Trump copped a bullet? ‘Good Times’ by Chic presumably. Satire. Right There.
And on that sombre note, we close the curtains on another edition. Cheer up though! I’ll be back next week with another ten selections and some shite commentary which is generally littered with information cribbed from Wikipedia.
Before I go, I promised my mate Ste Hindley that I would mention him in this weeks blog. So there you go Ste. Happy 39th Birthday you big lump. Not that he’ll ever see it as I don’t think he likes music. Or words.;-)