Various Artists – Blue Note: 60 Years of Cool
Welcome, belatedly to 2013. My one fan and my one daughter (they may be one and the same person!) has been complaining about the lack of posts. So, I’m back with a new post and a new site design. I haven’t given the site a full once over to see if I have broken anything, but on first view it seems all okay. If anything is broken, I will endeavour to fix it. I will also, in due course, probably tweak the theme a little to inject some more colour. Other than that I’ll leave well alone. I like to more open appearance of this new theme – I hop you do too.
So, for my first post of 2013, I have Dianne Reeves singing Afro Blue. This comes from a free with the Observer in 1999 CD Blue Note: 60 Years of Cool. The CD is a short but excellent introduction to the Blue Note label featuring, as well as Dianne Reeves, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Horace Parlan, Donald Byrd & Cassandra Wilson. Not bad, eh?
Dunque, on with the music:
Dianne Reeves – Afro Blue
Heather Heywood – The Wife of Ushers Well
Would you believe it? Thirteen short steps from Senegal takes you to Scotland! This week we’ve got the Scottish border ballad, The Wife of Usher’s Well. The story tells of the return of the ghosts of three sons to their mother at Martinmas. (The feast of St. Martin was held on November the eleventh, one of the Scottish quarter days. It is usually referred to as Martinmas but pronounced Martimas. It was the same day as Hallowe’en in the old calendar.)
The song has been been recorded by many artists over the years: Steeleye Span, Martin Carthy, Karine Polwart and Bellowhead to name just a few. This unaccompanied version is by Scots singer Heather Heywood from her Greentrax album By Yon Castle Wa’. It is widely available and if you enjoy your ballads sung without over the top arrangements / production, the album is well worth investigating. But don’t just take my word for it; Bob Walton, reviewing the album for FRoots magazine, said Heather Heywood has one of those glorious voices that demand your attention and is considered by many as one of the finest of today’s Scottish singers, especially when it comes to singing the big traditional ballads.
Heather Heywood – The Wife of Usher’s Well
Etoile De Dakar – Volume 1 – Absa Gueye
I started to write this post last week but got distracted by events – though not world shattering events as I can’t remember what they were just a week later. However, in the interim, I listened to the latest Froots Radio Podcast and, by coincidence, Ian Anderson played an Etoile de Dakar track from a recently released Youssou N’Dour retrospective.
If you like the track I am posting today, I’m certain you’ll enjoy the Froots Radio podcasts. And, for my money, December’s podcast is one of the most enjoyable I’ve listened to. This month there is a lot of cracking African music and some brilliant Greek Rembetiko.
On to my track – Etoile de Dakar’s Absa Gueye. This is the title track from the first of a series of Etoile de Dakar re-issues put out by Sterns. The album is a great place to hear mbalax; Senegalese music that fuses Cuban music with traditional Senegalese drum patterns.
Etoile de Dakar – Absa Gueye
Colorblind James – Strange Sounds from the Basement
Thirteen steps from Buddy Guy takes us to Colorblind James.
The Colorblind James Experience experienced little fame in the USA but gained a following in the UK after being taken up and championed by John Peel. Their music did not fit easily into any pigeonhole, which may be why success eluded the band at home but they found an audience with alternative music fans in Europe. Wikipedia has it about right: “Often humorous (“The music stopped. And then it started again.”) and parodic, and just as often laced with a profoundly questioning spirituality; their music blended elements of polka, country, cocktail jazz, blues, rockabilly, Tex-Mex, rock & roll and other genres. The band’s sound was to a large extent inspired by the “old, weird America” famously chased by Bob Dylan and The Band during their Basement Tapes period, but other prominent influences included Ray Charles, Randy Newman, and Van Morrison.”
The band was active from 1978 up to 2001 when Chuck Cuminale, aka Colorblind James, died unexpectedly of an arhythmia.
The track posted today, the title track of the album, is not the strongest on the CD but it seems to be the most appropriate to post in Halloween week.
Colorblind James – Strange Sounds from the Basement
Buddy Guy – I Cry and Sing the Blues
This week Buddy Guy – I Cry and Sing the Blues. This is the track and the album title; the album being one of the keenly priced collections issued by Charly as one of their Blues Masterworks series.
I own a few from this series and, although I’m not a great blues aficionado and so my opinion should be treated with caution, I wouldn’t say that they are necessarily the best recordings from the artists covered. That said, they are a cheap introduction and could provide a jumping off point to discover other albums by these and other blues artists.
The track posted is definitely the stand out track on the record. If it reaches you in anyway there is a wealth of Buddy Guy recordings to explore from his work in the Chess Record’s house band backing Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters et al, through his work with harmonica player Junior Wells to the numerous albums released under his own name. And if you need any more encouragement Buddy Guy was ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Buddy Guy – I Cry And Sing The Blues
Traffic – The Collection
One small project I have set myself is to recreate some of the sampler albums I listened to when I was a teenager. I haven’t made much progress but perhaps will resurrect the idea this winter. To give me some impetus I’ll post Roamin’ Thro’ the Gloamin with 40,000 Headmen by Traffic. I have it now on a Traffic compilation album The Collection but it was originally released as B-side to the “No Face, No Name, No Number” single in 1968 and then on their second album Traffic.
I first owned it on the Island sampler album Nice Enough to Eat. As an impoverished teenager sampler albums were a lifeline to my musical appetite. I could enjoy good music cheaply and go on to buy the crucial albums as and when I had the money. I have many fond, if fading, memories of hanging out with school-friends listening to these samplers – Nice Enough to Eat, You Can All Join In, Bumpers, The Rock Machine Turns You On etc. Happy days.
Traffic – 40,000 Headmen
3 Mustaphas 3 – Soup of the Century
My weekly posts from Northampton’s number one CD rack have been a bit less regular of late – apologies. I’d like to say that I have been madly busy with work, a hectic social life or travel to exotic lands but the truth is somewhat more mundane – doing bits and bobs and watching the Olympics. I may have missed a post last week but I’m back again with another tune for which I’m going to find a contrived Olympic link.
Today we have This City is very Exciting! by 3 Mustaphas 3. I’ve just been listening to the latest fRoots podcast, much of which is devoted to re-broadcasting a Folk Roots Radio programme first broadcast 30th September 1985. The programme was presented by Ian Anderson (fRoots) and featured an interview with guest Ben Mandelson of 3 Mustaphas 3. Great stuff – I shall listen again in the car tomorrow as I head down the motorway to a family birthday party.
Listening to the podcast I was inspired to post a track from the 3 Mustaphas 3 CD, Soup of the Century. It’s a fun record with so many musical styles, you get jet-lagged just listening to it. Wikipedia says “With tracks ranging from a Country song in Japanese to a Mexican traditional sung in Hindi, and going through a mix of Irish, Scottish, Greek, Albanian, Klezmer and many more styles, the Mustaphas had broken the last barriers separating ethnic music styles.”
From the CD I’ve chosen This City is Very Exciting! – a sentiment I’m sure many of the Olympic teams, Olympic tourists and Londoners enjoying the Olympic vibe will agree with.
3 Mustaphas 3 – This City is Very Exciting!
Various Artists – This is Proper Folk Too!
For a change we’re not having a Lucky Thirteen post. I don’t seem to have bought a new CD for a while so I went mad and spent £1.99 on a 10 track sampler album. It was the least I could do in these times of austerity to do my bit towards kick-starting the British economy.
I like sampler CDs, and so do many others. I always have since the days of Bumpers, Nice Enough To Eat, You Can All Join In, The Rock Machine Turns You On etc. If you remember these albums you are over 60 or a rock music historian! (I started a mini project a little while ago to recreate some of these samplers in mp3 downloads. I really must get round to finishing it.)
The rationale for releasing samplers was and is to encourage listeners to discover new music and to go on to support the artists by buying their full albums and attending their gigs. It did work in the past and I’m sure that it works today. So go on, do your bit to kick-start the British economy, and support these artists in a club, pub, concert hall or festival and / or in the privacy of your own home.
On with the music; I’ve chosen Sweet Thames Flow Softly by Jon Boden with Sam Sweeney. I Love this song, this is a great version and a song set in London seems timely just prior to the start of London 2012.
Jon Boden with Sam Sweeney – Sweet Thames Flow Softly
Martin Carthy with Dave Swarbrick – Second Album
Late again – I blame Andy Murray. Or David Cameron. Or both!
Lucky Thirteen has brought us from Martin Carthy with Brass Monkey to Martin Carthy with Dave Swarbrick on his Second Album. It is really interesting to hear how Martin Carthy’s style has changed over the years. Everything on this album seems much more studied and formal than on later records. He is definitely working his way from the accepted “folk singer” style of singing and playing to something more personal and unique. The track that I have chosen, Ramblin’ Sailor, is the nearest in style to the later albums that he and Dave Swarbrick released.
The sleeve notes say this about the song: “Also known as Young Johnson, this is a typical story of a sailor home from a long voyage and a rather frisky whore who robs him of all his possession, leaving him with a physical reminder of the exchange; or, as “Measure for Measure” puts it, “Impiety makes a feast of him.””
Martin Carthy with Dave Swarbrick – Ramblin’ Sailor
Brass Monkey – Doctor Fauster's Tumblers / The Night of Trafalgar / Prince William
It is just thirteen steps from Santiago to Portsmouth, well it is in my record collection anyway. Thirteen steps from Alianza – Alianza! to Brass Monkey – The Complete Brass Monkey. And, as today I’m riding down to Bognor Regis, I’ll post Riding Down to Portsmouth. Bognor, Portsmouth – they are close enough for me!
The Complete Brass Monkey is a compilation of the first two Brass monkey albums – Brass Monkey (1983) and See How It Runs (1986). Since then they have released Sound and Rumour (1999), Going and Staying (2001), Flame of Fire (2004), Head of Steam (2009) as well as another compilation, The Definitive Collection (2005). I don’t know these albums other than the odd tracks that have been played on the radio. I really should get round to buying them.
And if you enjoy this track (and the others off this album that I have posted, buy the CDs yourself or take yourself off to one of their gigs – yes they are still gigging from time to time. This summer’s gigs can be found on John Kirkpatrick website.
Brass Monkey – Riding Down to Portsmouth