Monday, April 30, 2007

What Does Become Of The Brokenhearted?

Last week me and my mate The Vorg were quaffing cold drinks in a groovy bar in Clapham, as one does, when we fell to discussing the late great singing voice of David Ruffin.

Ruffin was huge in the 1960s as the distinctive lead vocalist of The Temptations, but hubris and rather too much Bolivian marching powder got the better of him, and hacked off at being increasingly seen (by Ruffin at least) as his backing band, the other Temptations and their management team fired him.

After an acrimonious contractual tussle with Motown records, Ruffin embarked on a solo career which, patchy in parts, nevertheless involved the release of two or three of the finest soul records of the era.

He died of a drug overdose in 1991, aged just 50.

Strangely now, many of those people whose interest in 60s soul and pop is passing rather than, er, 'studious' seem not to have heard of him.

"Was he related to Jimmy Ruffin?" they ask.

Well, er, yeah, he was his brother.

"Oh, right...I do like that 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted'".

The Vorg and I disagreed over which of the two songs I'm posting here was our favourite track.

I plumped for 'My Whole World Ended' (a song originally intended for The Tempts and I think one of my all time favourite Motown recordings); The Vorg's always had a thing for 'Walk Away From Love'...

But we could not have agreed more that this was a great voice, sadly missed.

David Ruffin - 'My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)' (1969)
David Ruffin - 'Walk Away From Love' (1975)

(By the way, nice to see a soul singer with glasses isn't it? Not forgetting Curtis Mayfield of course).
(Buy DR here)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shhh !


23 years ago when I was a student sharing a small terraced house in London's Turnpike Lane with a couple thousand cockroaches and a lot of flock wallpaper, I bought Miles Davis' In A Silent Way from the 'Record Tape & Video Exchange' in Notting Hill Gate. I liked Miles. I already had Kind Of Blue and Porgy And Bess. I had some Charlie Parker too! But this? I found it 'difficult'.

After a couple of days struggling with it, I took it back and swapped it (I don't even remember for what).

Yesterday I bought it for a fiver on remastered CD from Fopp Records, Cambridge Circus - The Best Record Store In Central London (Official!).

Now I am loving every inch of it.

I guess it's like my Dad said to me when I grimaced taking a sip of his Teacher's whisky at fifteen years of age... 'Some things are an acquired taste my son...'

I like whisky now too.

Maybe one day I'll be old enough to appreciate everything that's good...

Miles Davis - 'In A Silent Way' (1969) (Buy)

[PS: this edit is from Miles' Best Of: as cognoscenti will know, the full version tips without gap into 'It's About That Time' and is 19 mins long; but I don't think my bandwidth allowance is up to that.]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Get The Funk 'n' Peace In Here!


'All that is needed for control is that a state of war should exist' - George Orwell 1984

Edwin Starr - 'War (King Britt mix)' (2005) (from Motown Remixed)
Timmy Thomas - 'Why Can't We Live Together' (1972)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Frank

I haven't heard the rest of the album, so am prepared to accept that Mr Toad may be justified in his rather impressively bilious rant about producer Mark Ronson's covers project, but I have to say that I find this track, at least, to be rather bloody marvellous.

And I don't even like The Zutons original. Or The Zutons much at all, come to that.

I do however, love La Winehouse.

And though you couldn't move on the blogosphere without tripping over posts from Back To Black (buy) a few months ago, all the zeitgeisty types responsible have moved on to cut a new edge somewhere else now.

Meanwhile in my distinctly unzeitgeisty and today slightly Eeyore-esque hollow, I still have the album on rotation and this further collaboration with its producer is a very nice little adjunct, ta very much.

Mark Ronson (feat. Amy Winehouse) - 'Valerie' (2007)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nothing Less Than Brilliant - still

There is a great interview with the legendary and very lovely Sandie Shaw in yesterday's Observer Music Monthly in which she reflects on winning the Eurovision Song Contest forty years ago with 'Puppet On A String', a song she hated then and has hated ever since.
"A few years ago I started my website, as I thought it was something I could play with and it's the first time I've felt at home since the Sixties, because you can communicate directly with your audience. I'd moaned to Howard Jones [Eighties pop star/producer], an old friend of mine, about 'Puppet' and it was his idea to re-record it, to cure me. He just made me sing it in a different way. I know it sounds strange, but it's been like therapy. I'm at peace with it now"

Sandie Shaw - 'Puppet's Got A Brand New String' (2007)

The track is available free from Sandie's excellent self-managed site - and she's promising to post still more material there soon in continued celebration of her sixtieth year.

I can't think of many other living 60s pop stars who've been cool for four decades, can you?

Love her.

Buy Sandie's records here.

This Boy

His missus is getting all the plaudits at the moment, and deservedly so - and of course he's an established dance music producer, DJ and record label owner now, but something in the air this morning, a whiff of melancholy in an overcast moment, makes me want to play these songs from the days when Ben Watt was 21, an investment of 99p got you Pillows & Prayers, and North Marine Drive was playing in my best friend's rented room in Whalley Range.

It was after punk and it was after post-punk and as someone said at the time it was 'our generation's quiet music'.

Excuse me, but I think I might have to have a little cry now.

Ben Watt 'On Box Hill' (1983)
Ben Watt 'Some Things Don't Matter' (1983)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Early Dawning, Sunday Morning


The Velvet Underground - 'Sunday Morning' (1966)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Get The Funk Back In Here!

This week three tracks from psychedelic soul/jazz/funk/pop pioneer genius (and son of blues guitarist Johnny) Shuggie Otis , who blazed a totally original musical trail for himself in the early-mid 70s, as composer, arranger, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist (piano, synth, bass, drums, drum machine programming, vibes, lead and rhythm guitar) - a trail not picked up successfully by anybody again until the arrival of Prince a decade later.

The Shuggie song you will know if you know any at all will be 'Strawberry Letter 23', a candypopfunk confection taken Top 40 in the UK and to number 1 in the US in 1977 by The Brothers Johnson and featured twenty years later on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. The cover's good, but the original has a kind of tie-dyed innocence it's hard to better.

The album to get is Inspiration Information (1974), re-released a few years ago with extra tracks from 1971's Freedom Flight on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label (buy it).

Frequently defying categorisation - but prepare yourself for extended free and mellow jazz workouts, lush orchestrations, electro-funk and proto-synth pop - this is music far, far ahead of its time, and it seems to me that this man is long overdue the credit and acclaim he deserves.

(PS: the first ten seconds of the first track below are the best theme music for the best Starsky & Hutch episode you never saw...).

Shuggie Otis - 'Ice Cold Daydream'
Shuggie Otis - 'Sparkle City'
Shuggie Otis - 'Strawberry Letter 23'

Nice. Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Leaks - A Morality Tale

Hard gigging unsigned band give away demo CDs at concerts that enthusiastic fans upload and share. Few fans become many fans, as more and more hear the MP3s, go to the gigs, tell their friends - and momentum gathers. Gigs grow and grow. Surviving UK Famous Music Weekly weighs in, loudly endorsing band, balance is tipped. Band release album featuring tracks fans already own for free - they buy them all again anyhow. Band now huge. Even broadsheet journos and fortysomething fathers of two (wotcha!) know who they are, and own their records. Brilliantly, success does NOT go to band's head. Band focuses on more hard gigging, writing, and recording much anticipated second album ('Second Coming or Morning Glory?' asks Famous Music Weekly...).

Album tracks are widely leaked on blogosphere.

But this time the lawyers are watching....
Oh dear.

Have we forgotten something somewhere Mr Man?

* * *

This is, I think, rather brilliant - more 'love it from the first time you hear it' than the other tracks I've heard, and so probably the next single.

I shall be posting this, my dears, for 48 hours only.

To encourage you, needless to say, to buy the album. Like you wouldn't!

Arctic Monkeys - 'Flourescent Adolescent' (2007)
PS: Working too hard this week - but hope to be back for some Friday Funk, and then all things shall be well. Missing you already x.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Hello Again On Another Monday Morning"

UK dance/electronica duo Nick Franglin and Fred Deakin, working as Lemon Jelly, have produced some of the most original recordings of the last six or seven years, interweaving witty vocal samples, unlikely 'found' musical sources (70s soft rock, children's nursery rhymes) and frequently hilarious 'live' spoken word contributions from actors (William Shatner!), with their own crunchy ambient sounds to deliver a quirky, psychedelic and somehow very English spin on a genre too often characterised by bland muzak.

I first heard this track in a perfect setting - watching a big orange ball of a sun melt steadily into San Antonio Bay to DJ Bruno Lepretre's sunset session at the Cafe Del Mar, Ibiza. *sigh*. It
really doesn't get much better than that.

It took me a while to track it down - all I had to go on was the Chicago sample, and though I already knew and loved Lemon Jelly's stuff, this 'B' side (to 'Perfect Weather For Ducks') had until then passed me by.

Anyway, here it is, in all its AOR-istic glory.

All donations to fund a return trip to Ibiza this summer gratefully received ; )

Lemon Jelly - 'Soft' (2003)

Buy Lemon Jelly here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Breakfast With Shaft


Morning! How are you today?

Bit bleary-eyed? Overdid the tequila last night?

Or maybe you're just fine - you slept well, the sun's shining, there's a whole day ahead of you, no place in particular you have to be...?

Either way, Mr. Hayes has a tune for you.

Enjoy.

Isaac Hayes - 'Early Sunday Morning' (1971)

From Shaft OST (buy).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Life As A Ghost


So....I have had a Nice Eostre Break and Time With The Family and largely as predicted, the sun has shone. Which it did NOT when I was a kid, I can tell you. Easter Bank Holiday Monday? Long car journeys to 'beauty spots', hard boiled eggs and luncheon meat sandwiches, thermos of tea (Mother), winter jumpers, rain. A traffic jam on the way back. All very Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop, in fact.

This holiday, however, I Have Been Mostly Listening To...well, lots of Field Mice actually, because Colin via JC set me off on a trip from 'Let's Kiss And Make Up' (ex-blog and eponymous track) to lots of emusic downloads to wondering how, given My Vintage And Tendencies, especially circa 1989-91, I had not heard these genius! music makers before (so, genuinely, thanks a million Colin/JC and goodness me, I love this blogosphere thing) ....BUT, also Tanya Donelly who I have been loving long time (Throwing Muses, Belly, etc) but whose 2004 album (great title) Whiskey Tango Ghosts I heard for the first time last week and have been PLAYING TO DEATH ever since.

It is marvellous: heartfelt, latenight, sharp and spooky - piano and acoustic guitary: lovely.

So, some tasters to encourage you to (and you really should) buy...

Tanya Donelly - 'Butterfly Thing'
Tanya Donelly - 'My Life As A Ghost'

While we're at it - her stepsister's new one is worth a listen too...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Down At The Lido They Welcome You

Sunny days, lighter evenings, charcoal burning everywhere - but we live in England baby and it's only April, so we know it won't last.

Still, it's cocktail hour in London and something about The Dan is right for the mood.

A quintessential track this, I think - that lyric 'In the night you hide from the madman you're longing to be/But it all comes out on the inside/Eventually'....

And they could afford to leave songs like this off albums.

Such talent.

And I could go on about it and them and try to convert those of you who mistakedly believe that they represent the worst of 1970s FM AOR by extolling their considerable genius, but you know what? I'd really rather just play the music.

Steely Dan - 'Here At The Western World' (1976)

Buy Steely Dan here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Eostre's Parade

The lady in the picture is Eostre, the ancient Northern European goddess associated with the dawn, spring and fertility. Often depicted with eggs (new life!) and rabbits - or more correctly, hares - (procreation! prodigious fertility!) she graced our festivals of the Spring Equinox, and then like so many other symbols of our once close connection with the Earth and our celebration of its turning, she had her holiday ripped off and co-opted by the Christian church, and was forgotten. Now only a version of her name remains...

I shall be remembering Eostre this weekend - and no doubt imbibing invigorating liquor in her honour in the traditional manner.
I'll also be playing this...

Patti Smith Group - 'Easter' (1978) (buy here)

...and looking forward very much to seeing the artist in question at Camden's legendary Roundhouse on 17th May.

And if the sun really does shine, and all is vernal, I might dream of still warmer days and sunsets to come, and go, frankly, more than a bit Balearic...

A Man Called Adam - 'Easter Song (Cafe Del Mar mix)' (2004) (buy on this).

Enjoy your weekend - we'll be back in a few days' time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

But Why On Earth Should I Moan?

It looked (briefly) in London yesterday like we would be basking this whole pre-Easter week in warm, quasi-Mediterranean sunshine (18c!), but I see the old April grey is back with us this morning. *sigh*

Still, the happy anticipation of an extended Bank Holiday weekend and a temporary respite from work is still tangible...and it'll only take the sun to return for the good citizens of this fair city to spill once more onto the pavements and terraces outside the evening pubs and bars, and all shall be well again.

Which brings us to this song, which I found on emusic and couldn't resist. Not so much a cover as a complete re-invention, leaving only the barest bones of the original intact.

Lovely though, as I hope you'll agree.

Joyce (& Banda Maluca) - 'A Hard Day's Night' (2003)
(From Just A Little Bit Crazy - available here)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Anglo-American


David Shire - 'Manhattan Skyline' (1977) from Saturday Night Fever OST (buy)
John Barry - 'Nocturnal New York' (1998) from The Beyondness Of Things (buy)