Hullo. Welcome back to your weekly parade of pop picks. As we reach the beginning of cold weather proper (I had to scrape the car this morning, funny how you can forget about that particular seasonal ballache) I’ve selected a few songs which may transport you to warmer climes and times, including an artist I heard for the very first time last week, completely unaware of a career which stretches back seventeen years. We also celebrate the return of a playlist favourite and the NL debut of a seminal combo.
Paulo is also back where he should be, this week my very good friend, bandmate and the original manufacturer of the smashing orangey bit in McVities Jaffa Cakes has also selected an artist who is no stranger to these shores.
Ok, Let’s begin the beguine..
Track 1. Stage Fright by The Band.
We kick off proceedings with Canadian legends The Band who make their playlist bow with the title song from their third LP which was released in 1970. Rick Danko takes up the vocal duties on this Robbie Robertson song which was performed memorably on the classic, Scorcese directed farewell concert movie ‘The Last Waltz’. Below is that very performance although I’ve opted to include the album version on the spotify playlist to allow you to compare and contrast. Whichever take you choose to listen to, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a show stopper that also makes a perfect show starter and a classy way to open playlist number ninety-five.
Track 2. Look Away by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
We don’t stray too far from The Band’s patented Country rock sound for our next selection, although this troupe tended to stray towards an Eagles-type poppier sound. This track is taken from the sophomore LP, 1974’s ‘It’ll Shine When It Shines’ which contains their biggest single and best known song, ‘Jackie Blue’, which reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.
Track 3. Strong Suit by Marker Starling.
As I mentioned up the top there, this feller has managed to completely evade my attention since he started recording at the turn of this century (Jeez, that phrase makes it sounds positively pre-historic, but we are Seventeen years in, lest we forget). Stanley Kubrick lookalike (Seriously, google him) Chris A. Cummings began life as ‘Mantler’ before setting on the Marker Starling moniker back in 2012. I first became aware of him just last week when his new single Playin’ Along ’99 was featured on the Radcliffe and Maconie show over on six music and was instantly hooked on his Seventies inspired smooth songwriting style. With a knack for a melody that could be described as Donald Fagen shorn of his jazz excesses, his easy way with a song is instantly addictive and I look forward to hearing his new LP ‘Anchors And Ampersands’ from which this track is lifted.
Track 4. Demon Is A Monster by Cornershop.
This brand new instrumental from playlist favourites Cornershop dropped just last month and is hopefully a foretaste of a new, long overdue long player, although the only description I can find online states it is “Soundtrack theme tune for the Remainiacs Brexit podcast”, whatever that is. Led by a groovy Bass, it is pretty much late period Cornershop by numbers, but that’s exactly what I want to hear from one of the few acts that have genuinely ploughed their own path since they formed in the early nineties.
Track 5. Backfield In Motion by Mel & Tim.
Melvin McArthur Hardin and Hubert Timothy McPherson were cousins from Holly Springs, Mississippi, who were discovered by Motown legend Gene Chandler when they made the move to Chicago. Yolanda Hardin, who was Mel Hardin’s mother and McPherson’s aunt, along with their cousins Walita, Catha, Donny and Darris Maxwell helped the duo with songwriting and publicity. Yolanda, formerly a singer, signed them to a recording contract with her Bamboo Records, releasing this featured track which was immediately successful, reaching number 3 on Billboard magazine’s R&B chart and number 10 on its pop chart in 1969. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. The version on the playlist is a live, extended cut however below is the original single version which featured on their debut LP ‘Good Guys Only Win in the Movies’.
Track 6. Roller Girl by Anna Karina.
This Serge Gainsbourg penned song featured in Karina’s 1967 musical comedy ‘Anna’ which was a vehicle for the Danish muse of Jean-Luc Godard who featured her in half a dozen of his French New wave movies after their marriage in 1961. It’s typical Gainsbourg with it’s thumping drums and fuzz guitars and a shall we say, ‘interesting’ vocal from the actress. Good old late period Yé-yé fun and a more than welcome re-appearance for a genre that I love.
Track 7. We’re Almost There by Michael Jackson.
****PAULO’S PICK OF THE WEEK****
Paul has this week selected this 1975 song which was one of the final Motown single releases for the latter day ‘King Of Pop’. The opener of his final LP for the label ‘Forever, Michael’, it marks the beginning of his transition from teeny bopper pop star to bona fide soul legend with a more mature vocal from the then 16 year old and a pointer to the slicker sound that would propel him to super-stardom when he made the move to CBS records. Dripping with class thanks to the songwriting and production chops of the Holland brothers who had recently returned to the Detroit label, it is an often overlooked classic that I haven’t heard for far too long and I must pay massive thanks to Mr D’C for the re-introduction.
Track 8. That’s When I Reach For My Revolver by Mission Of Burma.
This song first came to my attention when it was covered by Blur’s Graham Coxon for his second solo LP ‘The Golden D’ in 2000 and, having no knowledge of the original track, I assumed it was his own composition. Research also shows that it was released as a single by chrome-domed carrot botherer and omnipresent nineties dance-floor git Moby, but having never been a fan of his work, I haven’t bothered to seek it out. Anyways, this is the original from Boston post-punkers Mission Of Burma and was the lead track on their debut EP ‘Signals, Calls, and Marches’, released in 1981.
Track 9. Dreams by Alice Boman.
Our cover star this week is Swedish singer songwriter Alice Boman and a track which was released as a single in September. Over to Alice to explain the genesis and themes of the song..
“I wrote ‘Dreams’ more than 2 years ago and I can’t recall exactly what was in my mind at the time. But I do remember being in the studio later on recording the song. I had just gotten a disappointing text message and I was sad and upset, and then I had to record vocals. And I remember that it hit me, when singing the song, that although I wrote it at another time it captured just how I felt in that moment too. And it comforted me somehow, that that’s how it is. Everything is constantly changing. But some things always feels the same. Heartache is never easy. And in those moments it’s important to find something to hold on to. To keep on dreaming.”
Track 10. There Goes My Used To Be by Wee Willie Walker.
And so, we reach another soul slowie closer. This week we have the b-side to Wee Willie Walker’s superb 1968 cover of The Wackers’ ‘Ticket To Ride’. Memphis born Walker began his career in 1960 as a member of the gospel group The Redemption Harmonizers before relocating to Minnesota. He recorded nine singles for the legendary ‘Goldwax’ label before disappearing only to re-emerge in the eighties when he supported John Lee Hooker. Wee Willie is still recording today and has released three albums in the last eight years or so, his emotive and powerful voice undimmed by time.
That wraps things up for another week. We’re getting ever closer to that all important Number 100 which will be an extravaganza the like of which you have never seen in all your born days. Always nice to go out with a bang isn’t it? NL.96 will drop in your laps at the usual time and place next Friday.
Until then, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.