Thursday, 31 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #11

Unknown shrub, Heaton Chapel
You know, I've never understood why Luscious Jackson didn't make it as big as I thought they were going to. They had all the best qualities of indie, punk and hip hop at a time when you'd have thought that would be A Good Thing. 

Natural Ingredients, which was released on the Beastie Boys label, Grand Royale, was the follow up to the 1993 mini album In Search of Manny, which is still worth a listen. 'Energy Sucker' has a certain
up yours kind of swaggery attitude to it that I really like. And it doesn't seem to have dated at all.

Pins, from Manchester, released their second album in summer 2015. 'Young Girls' was the leading single from it and saw the band taking a slightly more melodic, less garage route than on their previous album.

As the marking of the centenary of World War I continues, it felt only right to acknowledge it with Laura Cantrell's lovely take on 'When The Roses Bloom Again', a poignant folk take on those parted by war.

I saw Laura Cantrell in Manchester back in 2003, when she was touring with Paul Burch. The gig had a fantastically friendly atmosphere and Laura and Paul hung out by the merch stall afterwards, signing CD's.

Toussaint McCall's 'Nothing Takes The Place Of You' will be familiar to anyone who has seen the original 1980s film version of Hairspray. It is a timeless soul classic.

Image of unknown shrub, Heaton Chapel, by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #10

Berries growing in hedgerow, Offerton.
We begin this morning with Lamb, and their excellent drum 'n' bass classic 'Gorecki'. I was first introduced to this song not long after it was released, by a friend who was just starting to transition from a broadly punk based musical diet to hip hop and drum'n'bass. She put it on a mixtape for me, but didn't label it. I absolutely hammered the tape and, after about a year, nature took its course and it snapped...

Fast forward about 13 or so years and I'm at home in the kitchen listening to 6music on a Saturday morning, and Liz Kershaw announce's she's playing Lamb next. And I hear the words 'If I should die...' and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end because, at last, it is. That. Song.

End of quest.

I have a decidedly less intense relationship with Choir of Young Believers and their song 'Jeg Ser Dig', in which I have to concur wholeheartedly with the bands press release that singer Jannis Noya Makrigiannis sounds like a male Sade. This song was released in October, and there's a new album to follow in February 2016. The song is a lovely, sorrowful soundscape of a song. In Danish.

Probably not that many people, outside of the Lone Justice/Maria McKee fanbase, will have heard the Lone Justice version of Lou Reed's 'Sweet Jane', but it is definitely worth a listen. It first appeared on a Lone Justice E.P, which I suspect is now a collectors item, and resurfaced, years later, on a Maria McKee best of.

I've just discovered that, at last, someone has managed to upload the famous clip of Big Brother and the Holding Company perorming 'Ball and Chain' at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival without it being taken down for copyright violation within a week. Hurrah! Rolling Stone presumably have the correct licence. So here it is in all it's glory for your enjoyment. There really is very little left to say about it as a clip, other than it being the moment when Janis Joplin clearly got her first moment in the limelight and showed she was a force to be reckoned with. 

Big Mama Thornton gave the world the original 'Ball and Chain', and I blogged about that version when Holly Combe and I were doing the Song of the day series on The F-Word. Both versions are really worth a listen. 

Image of Berries growing in hedgerow, Offerton, by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #9

There were so many gorgeously sad, atmospheric, occasionally maudlin songs to emerge from the feverish sixties girl group period. So many classics, so little time...

The Pussycat's version of 'Dressed in black' is dripping with melodrama, and it's not often heard. Time for a revisit.

Florence + The Machine's 'Delilah' is part six, seemingly the concluding part, of the Odyssey series of videos made to accompany How big, how blue, how beautiful. Watching all six videos is a vaguely gruelling, but gripping, experience that definitely puts you through the emotional ringer, but it is worth it. If you want to do so, start with 'What kind of man', follow with 'St Jude', then continue with 'Ship to wreck', 'Queen of peace' and 'Long and Lost' before concluding with 'Delilah'

As to 'Delilah' itself, I described the song as being a marriage of the Dusty Springfield version of 'Can I get a witness?' and Siouxsie and the Banshees 'Halloween': It really shouldn't work, and yet somehow, it does... Harmonies, drama, atmosphere, urgency... it's all there.

The Vanilla Fudge version of the Supreme's classic 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' is from 1968, so not that long after the original, but way, way before the suitably overblown pop rock Kim Wilde version. It has much more in common with Jimi Hendrix than it does with Motown, and the slowed down rawk of it all gives it a swaggering overwrought glamour.

We conclude todays selection of sixties tinged charm and excess with Amy Winehouse and 'Back to Black', a song which takes us full circle, acknowledging as it does a clear debt to the sixties girl groups, particularly the Shangri-Las and 'I can never go home anymore'

Image of tiara by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved

Monday, 28 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #8

Berries and leaves, Heaton Moor
I thought I'd begin today's post with an extra slice of California sunshine, following on from Tommy James and the Shondells yesterday. So, todays slice of sunshine pop is the Mamas & The Papas 'California Dreaming', which is, I think, my favourite track of theirs. They're one of those bands where it's easy to use, and subvert, the meaning of their songs, hence the use of 'Dedicated to the one I love' on the soundtrack to Morvern Caller and oh so ironic use of 'It's Getting Better' in Beautiful Thing. There was darkness as well as lightness in the band, and that that is part of the reason why their songs can be used and interpreted in a number of ways.

Kali Uchis' 'Know what I want' has a very summary vibe to it as well. Think post-Amy Winehouse with a vague nod to dub reggae. This is from late 2014, so not as 'new' as it should be, but it is my favourite track of hers so far.

I love the swagger of Santigold's 'My Superman', although the debt to Siouxsie and the Banshee's 'Red Light' is very evident, she manages to totally transform it and make it something very different but also a good salute to the original.

While Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra collaborated on a number of songs, the collaborations they are most famous for are 'Some Velvet Morning' and 'Summer Wine', both of which I like, but not as much as 'Sundown, Sundown'

Image of berries and leaves in Heaton Moor by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #7

Fake Poinsettia
We open today with the rather lovely 'Crimson and Clover' by Tommy James and the Shondells. Tommy James and the Shondells, while being a particularly classy sixties outfit, also crop up regularly on 'Sunshine pop' compilations of the era. And a bit of sunshine pop is exactly what we need this side of Christmas I think.

Earlier this year I heard a fascinating BBC radio documentary about Cambodian music, Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. While incredibly harrowing, it also brought alive to me a real sense of what the Cambodian music scene was like in the years before the Khmer Rouge. Dengue Fever pay homage to that heritage and I've liked them for a couple of years now without fully understanding their heritage and context.

I watched them do it live at least twice, and it was brilliant. I was so pleased when they released it as the B side to 'Dialling Tone'.

Our final track is not so much blue as icy blue. This is the commanding and sepulchral 'Vessel' by Zola Jesus, in which Nika Danilova really gives voice to something eerily beautiful.

Image of Fake Poinsettia by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #6

Christmas star decoration
Boxing Day always seems to require something vaguely poignant and slightly overblown. Because even if you don't have a hangover on Boxing Day, there's always a vague sense of disappointment and ennui somehow.

Let the majestic Dinah Washington lift your mood this morning...

I heard the record shop at the Piccadilly Approach end of Newton Street blaring Dinah out over their external speakers one evening on my way to the bus stop, and while raising a smile, it also made me feel like I was in the supermarket scene in Morvern Callar, or else the Bonnie and Clyde homage scene in Run Lola Run.

What follows is a sudden jolt into nihilism and dystopeia courtesy of Halsey's 'New Americana', which is best described as post Lana Del Rey and post Hunger Games... 

By contrast, Dusty Springfield's impeccable (of course!) take on the Lesley Gore classic 'You Don't Own Me' is a different kind of restlessness.

From one outstanding singer to an outstanding, and much under appreciated singer songwriter, namely Laura Nyro. 'You don't love me when I cry' is the opening track from the classic New York Tendaberry album from 1969, and is a defining example of edge of the seat gripping, while also being very sad and beautiful.

Image of Christmas star decoration by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #5

I've always found it a bit odd that the Saint Etienne/Tim Burgess collaboration, 'I was born on Christmas Day' isn't revisited more at this time of year. It's scuffed indie credentials might mean it can't compete with Slade and Wizzard, but it's a much more charming record, and it has never knowingly been overplayed...

Peluche's 'Ohio', which was released in the dying months of 2014, has the double distinction of not being quite new enough to fully qualify as 'New' for the intents and purposes of this post, but it also sounds like it was recorded in 1982. That said, it's a joyous romp through post punk musicality for the modern age.

The Belle Stars, meanwhile, were really performing 'The Clapping Song' in 1982, itself a cover of the Shirley Ellis classic. The 80s revival in fashion has endured for so long now that their outfits look almost contemporary. Funny old world...

Owlle's France was one of my albums of last year, and now seems a good time to revisit it's cool electro sophistication. 'Ticky Ticky' flirts with Eurovision but stays the right side of it, and yes, it is a real earworm once you've heard it, even once.

Image of Satsumas by Cazz Blase, copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #4

Christmas tree in shop, Levenshulme, from bus window in rush hour traffic
While the sound on the clip isn't fantastic, todays video does show the goddess like Eartha Kitt in playful mood, performing the classic 'Santa Baby'. Kitt was, of course, about much more than this, and a song like 'Lazy Afternoon' shows off her vocal skills to a greater extent, but that doesn't detract from her performance here, which is perfect.

There's a vague aural unease and discordance in a lot of Tei Shi's work that is evident in her August release 'See Me'. Whereas February's 'Bassically' was slinky and slightly menacing, there's a gentle, pastoral quality to 'See Me' that is just as unsettling, just in a different way.

The Mediaeval Baebes have always been a curious ensemble, not really a choir, not really a band, not really classical, not really folk... 'Sour Grove', which is taken from 2007's The Rose, captures well where they were as an ensemble at that point, combining old and new elements to create a very distinctive and arresting take on an old song.

Todays post concludes with the excellent Laura Groves, aka Blue Roses, and 'First Frost Night', Groves was one of a number of Laura's making folk music in the UK in 2009, and the self titled Blue Roses album is still an excellent listen. It would be great if she made another album.

Photo of Christmas tree in shop, Levenshulme, from bus window in rush hour traffic, by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #3

Ivy in Heaton Chapel
Belly's 'Feed the tree' feels more like a summer or early autumn song than a winter song, with a post Throwing Muses Tanya Donnelly in seemingly exuberant mood. Oddly timeless.

Grace Mitchell's 'NoLo' is an absolute gold standard, freshly minted pop classic, the video to which was released on 25th November. Good things are surely to be expected of this girl.

Florence + The Machine's cover of Drake's 'Take Care' is from 2011, it was performed as part of a Radio 1 live session for Fearne Cotton and captures the band between Lungs and Ceremonials. While Florence's introduction is a little quiet in this clip, the song is captured in all its sonic glory.

Shocking Blue's 'Venus', while not as memorable perhaps as the Bananarama version, was given a second lease of life back in the 1990s when it was used to advertise, I think, Gillette? or similar. I believe the band had a fairly prolific output in the 1970s, and having heard a song of theirs on Radcliffe and Maconie's Chain about a year ago, they definitely are a band I should look into further.

Photo of ivy in Heaton Chapel by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #2

Holly Tree, Heaton Moor
Low's 'It was just like Christmas' is a sweetly lo fi, just the right side of cheesy, slice of festive fare that is always due a re-listen at this time of year. There's something innately comforting and innocent about it that ensures it never loses its charm.

Julia Holter's new album Have you in my wilderness is Piccadilly Records number 1 album of the year. They probably nailed it when they wrote in their end of year round up that, while liking her previous albums, they love the new one a lot more because it seems more substantial and fully formed in a pop sense than previous offerings. Personally, I really loved 'Hello Stranger', and loved the concept behind Loud City Song in a general sense, but never really got into it as an album.

September's track 'Sea Calls Me Home' captures the new album well.

Birdy's take on the Fleet Foxes' song 'White Winter Hymnal' showcases the singer's voice well, while deftly paying tribute to a song that, while markedly different in its original form, remains far from spoiled. I like both versions, but for very different reasons.

'Pale blue eyes' features on the Velvet Underground's self titled third album and, while not perhaps as well known as, say, 'I'm Waiting For My Man', or 'Venus In Furs', it is a quiet masterpiece.

Image of holly tree by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue #1

Heaton Moor Christmas Tree
The Waitresses'  'Christmas Wrapping' is my favourite Christmas song of all time.

I like it's realness, it's sense of harassed pre-Christmas organisation and the merry hell Christmas preparations can have upon everyday life. Anyone trying to get in or out of Manchester city centre recently will know what I'm talking about here.

I first encountered the song in the late 1990s when I was in the process of leaving my job as a Catering Assistant for an ill fated stint as a Researcher at a publishing company. That saxophone definitely kept me sane, and Patty died far too young.

'Coconut Water' by Milk & Bone is a sweetly sad, wistful song I only heard recently. It came out in March so I haven't built any history with this song yet, just really, really like it's electro pop elegance. It reminds me of Foxbase Alpha period Saint Etienne, and doesn't feel much like a winter song, but put that to one side because it has all the hallmarks of a classic.

'She moved through the fair', here being hauntingly performed by Sinead O'Connor as 'He moved through the fair' is a traditional folk song I have loved for several years now. There is a ambiguity and sadness to it that I really like. This version, needless to say, is perfect.

It's taken me a while to settle on a Billie Holiday track, but I've settled in the end on 'T'ain't Nobody's Business if I Do' because I like it's cheery 'fuck you' attitude, its knife edge morality and all round excellence. Enjoy...

Image of Heaton Moor Christmas tree by Cazz Blase. Copyright Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.