Monday, 18 June 2018

Long Afloat On Shipless Oceans

One of rock music's odd little Trivial Pursuit facts is that Tim Buckley premiered 'Song to the Siren' on the last ever episode of the Monkees TV show. The 1968 performance, which was introduced by an off-screen Micky Dolenz, is stripped back, acoustic and in a completely different key to the studio version that finally appeared on the 'Starsailor' LP two years later. Also, in the interim, the line '...puzzled as the oyster' was wisely amended to the altogether stronger '...puzzled as the newborn child'.

Tim Buckley - Song to the Siren (1968 Version)

It is of course, spellbinding stuff, as indeed was the superb reading by This Mortal Coil in 1983, though there are some that would argue that this Peel Session from 2002 contains the definitive interpretation of Buckley's song.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Version City #70 - Jason Falkner sings Joni Mitchell

In the precious few moments that I've had to sit down and listen to any music at all since Brian posted this at the weekend, I dug out the first two Jason Falkner albums, 'Presents Author Unknown' from 1996 and 1999's 'Can You Still Feel?' Classics, the both of 'em and available for pennies on eBay and at Discogs. Our advice? (and I'm taking the liberty of speaking for Brian as well here) - buy them, buy them, buy them. They are astoundingly assured and extremely classy pop records. Brilliant songs, brilliantly executed.

In addition to these twin masterpieces, during the second half of the 1990s Falkner also committed an eclectic selection of covers to tape, including songs originally performed by the likes of Magazine, Monochrome Set, The Kinks, Swell Maps, Def Leppard and Joni Mitchell. Ironically, for a man who is no stranger to playing every single instrument on his studio recordings, the one time I saw Jason perform 'Both Sides Now' in concert at The Garage in 1999, he did so with his broken right arm in a plaster cast, thus preventing him from playing any instrument at all.

These days in addition to his own endeavours, Jason Falkner is an in demand producer (Daniel Johnston, R. Stevie Moore, Pugwash) and versatile gun for hire, contributing bass to Noel Gallagher's recent LP and establishing himself as the guitar slinging mainstay of Beck's live band.

Jason Falkner - Both Sides Now

Monday, 11 June 2018

All That Jazz #6 - Miles Davis / Reggie Lucas

Miles and Reggie on stage

Reggie Lucas, one of the two guitarists in Miles Davis' controversial 1972-75 band, died in New York last month at the age of 65. Great commercial success came to Lucas in the 1980s when he produced the majority of Madonna's first LP, wrote her hit single 'Borderline' and, with fellow Miles Davis alumni James Mtume, co-wrote 'Never Knew Love Like This Before' for Stephanie Mills and 'The Closer I Get to You' for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

The music played on stage by Miles and his band from 1972-75 was often a dense fusion hybrid that, to many observers at the time, challenged the very notion of jazz itself. In contrast 'Chieftain', a studio recording from August 1972, but which remained unreleased until 2007, is a sparse, nervy piece, pushed along by the relentless tap-tap skittering of Al Foster's rim-shots and Lucas' periodic guitar stabs. Even if you're not a fan of jazz in general or Miles in particular, this may be worth a few minutes of your time.

Miles Davis - Chieftain

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Trying to Get Along Together

'Easy' is the latest track to be pulled from 'Hetrogaster', the debut LP from Blythe Pepino's new band Mesadorm, following the split of her art-pop trio Vaults. The song, which features vocal contributions from Blythe's Mother and Grandmother, concerns the day to day trials and tribulations of family life and, by unspoken extension, all human life. The touching video shows the band with various younger and older members of their own respective families. Don't go getting the impression that Mesadorm are a one trick pony though. 'Tell Me', released late last year, is the kind of off-kilter pop song that wouldn't be out of place in the work of fellow Bristolians Rozi Plain or This is the Kit.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Lay Llamas

I was surprised when the the postman knocked on the front door on Saturday morning and handed me my pre-ordered copy of 'Thuban', the third studio LP by Italy's Lay Llamas, as it's not actually scheduled for release until Friday 15th. Unfortunately Mrs S and I have a particularly packed schedule for the next fortnight, so the one quick spin through the record that I've managed so far is probably all that it's going to get until well beyond that official release date. I'll hopefully return to 'Thuban' in greater detail in due course, but for now if I said that it features guest appearances from the likes of Goat, Clinic and Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and is an exotic melting pot of afrobeat, psychedelia and krautrock, it might get you into the general vicinity of the noises you can expect to hear.

Friday, 1 June 2018

New Shoulders to Cry On

I felt every one of my 58 years earlier this week, when telling a couple of work colleagues the name of the artist I was going to see in concert that night. 'Nils Lofgren' I said. Blank faces. 'Singer-songwriter' I added helpfully. Blank faces. 'Well he's been a member of the E-Street Band for 35 years'. Blank faces. 'Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band?' I continued, becoming a tad desperate. '...Bruce Sprig...who?' Neither of them had ever heard of Bruce Springsteen. It wasn't that they were unfamiliar with his music, or knew him but didn't like his stuff - they had literally never heard of Bruce Springsteen. How do you get into your early 20s without ever having at least heard of Bruce Springsteen? I threw a few more big names at my baffled colleagues to see if anything stuck. 'Bob Dylan?' Nope. 'Tom Petty?' Nope. 'The Clash?' Nope. I was clearly being too obscure. 'The Beatles' I boomed confidently. 'You must have heard of The Beatles?' 'Oh yes, I've heard of them,' came a reply '..but I don't think I've heard any music by them. Are they an instrumental group?' I kid you not.

It's been 40 years since I first saw Nils Lofgren in concert and around 25 years since the last time. This latest tour is a stripped back celebration of his 50th year on the road and showcases material from all stages of that long and successful career. The highlight of the night for me was 'Black Books', a song originally released on his 1995 studio LP 'Damaged Goods', though this interpretation from 1997's 'Acoustic Live' is much closer to the atmospheric version we got on Tuesday evening.

Nils Lofgren - Black Books

Monday, 28 May 2018

Neck Another Pill to Make Me Feel Better

Sometimes at work, a random song (or part of a song) will get lodged in my head and become an eight hour long earworm. One day last week, for no apparent reason, it was 'This Feeling', the first single from 'Only Forever', the second LP by Puressence. I dug out my generic promo CD of the album when I got home and gave it a spin. It took me back. I saw Puressence just once, in 1998 a couple of months before the release of 'Only Forever', at The Barfly in Camden. That evening, I stood on one side of the room and my then recent ex-girlfriend and her new beau stood on the other. The tension in the air was palpable!

When I played through 'Only Forever' last week, I regretted never having picked up a proper finished copy of the CD in the ensuing 20 years. Yesterday morning, bright and early, Mrs S & I drove 20 miles to spend a couple of hours pottering around a large car-boot sale in a field just outside of Norwich. Half way along the very last row of stalls, as we were about to make our way back to the car, I crouched down to flick through a box of CDs on the ground - and there it was. A pristine copy of 'Only Forever'. Would you believe it? 'How much?' I asked, waving the CD above my head to grab the stallholder's attention. '50p' came the reply. Sold.

Puressence - This Feeling

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