Friday, December 9, 2016

Songs About People # 254 Kevin Barry

Leonard Cohen covers the popular Irish rebel song in honour of eighteen year old freedom fighter Kevin Barry who was hanged aged just eighteen by the British army in 1920. This in some way acts as small utterly insignificant personal penance from myself to the recently departed Cohen for not including his final album You Want it Darker on my list of albums of 2016. This is not because I didn't rate the record but because I just couldn't face listening to it, following Cohen's death at the end of this particular year when personally I'd Prefer it Brighter! I'll get there next year. 

Albums of the Year # 17 Eerie Wanda

                                         Previously posted earlier this year. This record still makes me feel very                                                                                  good. A true charmer!

'My new favourite Amsterdam based indie guitar band. Eerie Wanda's album from earlier this year, entitled Hum is a rare gem. Light, summery, melodic and thoughtful, meandering and constantly enchanting. The band are fronted by Croatian/Dutch frontwoman Marina Tadic who sets the tone but is ably supported by a sensitive and fluid three piece backing group. Comparisons with other bands are utterly redundant because the songs on the record stand bold and tall on their own. A splendid, creative entity. Listening through to Hum yesterday I felt slightly as if I was falling in love as the record progressed. Good albums do this to you.

Each song plays new tricks on you. It's difficult to pick out highlights because virtually every track tussles for attention. This may not be on the list of albums of the year on the big hitting publications when they come to be compiled in December but it damn well should be and will surely be on mine. This is a perfectly formed pop jewel. I've posted just three songs here but the other ten should be hunted down and the record adored in its entirety. Who says they don't make them like they used to? Eerie Wanda's Hum is living proof of the utter fallacy of this notion. Seek it out!'

December 9th 1950 Joan Armatrading

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 765 The Dells

Twee # 113 Sufjan Stevens

Song(s) of the Day # 1,055 Marlon Williams

Two songs from New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams' self-titled debut album, released earlier this year. He does the lean dark rueful stranger routine splendidly, occasionally almost sliding into Orbison territory and that takes proper talent.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 170 Pentangle

This sounded nice. At this time of the night!

Things Found on my Local's Jukebox # 172 Blue Mink

I was always looking for an entre to Blue Mink. But knew it wouldn't be Melting Pot. So here it is! Sounded great at Rosie's tonight.

Songs About People # 253 Amelia Earhart

Canadian nineties indie band The Inbreds put out some incredibly sweet stuff but occasionally chose to take a slightly tougher approach. Here for example, when singing the praises of America's pre-war sweetheart.

John Lennon

Albums of the Year # 18 Childish Gambino

A late entry to the chart. This was only released last week. Prominent records are not usually released as we get into December for obvious promotional reasons but Childish Gambino is certainly worthy of attention and his new record Awaken My Love! is a very fine album indeed.

It's patently obvious what the sources of this are. You'll hear Sly Stone, you'll hear George Clinton, you'll hear Prince. You'll hear plenty of that high pitched, treated, squeezed vocal that has denoted sexy and funky to the point of absolute cliche down the  years. But you've got to hand it to the man, he does it all terribly well!

December 8th 1943 Jim Morrison

Twee # 112 LCD Soundsytem

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 766 Elvis Presley

Song of the Day # 1,054 Jonny Fritz

'Did you take a break from drinking. And find out you have no friends. Who aren't sad old broken hearted wasted losers in the end...'

Everybody's an alternative comedian nowadays. Even singer-songwriters. Johnny Fritz admirably has a blown up image of the top half of his head and his evidently receding hairline in the lower corner of his album for this year Sweet Creep. Best song on it is first track Are You Thirsty. A darkly comic song not a million miles away from the kind of sadly comic poetic territory that Courtney Barnett works in.

Fritz, raised in Virginia and seeped in classic Country also has a website that  its worth checking out. There you can find Jonny Fritz nudie cards, Jonny Fritz women swimming wallets, Jonny Fritz glow in the dark beakers and other essential purchases. Oh and having a song called Chihuahua Rescue on the record is also a good move.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 169 The Bin Bags

I'm completely unfamiliar with The Bin Bags but this is just great. Apologies for the picture. Not quite sure what this is!

December 7th 1949 Tom Waits

Songs About People # 252 Lou Reed

'Your dark sunglasses won't make you Lou Reed. Your dark sunglasses just make it hard to see.'

Very good advice. Also a great record which captures the dark appeal of Lou and the Velvets very nicely. Oh and the video is just fabulous.

Albums of the Year # 19 Kikagaku Moyo

These days in terms of the 'new' you can pretty much have any of the 'old' you might care for musically. Bands that recreate the whole sixties psychedelia down to a tee. Others that replicate the  British eighties indie experience as if that particular decade had never ended. Or here with Japanese group Kikagaku Moyo, (their name translates approximately as Geometric Patterns), who explore the murky, giving  depths of Can's Ege Bamyasi and the legacy of their own countries Jap Rock movement with great aplomb and delicacy on their most recent record, the wonderfully named House in the Tall Grass.

It's an enchanting album. Derided in the most prominent  review that I could find, (on the Quietuswebsite), as a record where almost nothing is happening. I'm happy to disagree with that august internet journal which I often find precious to a quite ridiculous degree. I'd say that the fact that nothing appears to be going on as the whole point of the record's appeal, at least to me. Kikagaku Moyo as pictured below, are unashamedly Hippie in the most far out extreme imaginable, but unlike other bands who also share their musical leanings they seem to have gone beyond the musical surface and thrown themselves utterly into the whole philosophy and lifestyle that so inspire them. House in the Tall Grass is a meditation to spirituality and searching within for peace and beauty and though some might mock the endeavor and intention as affectation of the first order, I'd personally salute them for their mission and add their record to the tottering pile of excellent albums released in 2016.

Twee # 111 Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith of course has so many songs that fit into this particular category.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 767 The Stylistics

Song(s) of the Day # 1,053 Human Switchboard

Lost on the human switchboard of life. That's Human Switchboard. Produced by David Thomas of Pere Ubu, they were quite Blondie when the girl in the band was on vocals and more distracted and jerky when the male bloke took the mic.  

Regardless. They're an indication of how good Post Punk / New Wave bands sounded in the late seventies. Fast forward to the past!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Album Reviews # 68 R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction

I have a relationship with R.E.M. as with no other band. I wouldn't claim for a moment that they were the best that's ever been by any means. Or even that they were more important than other groups who were also putting out great work in the early to mid-eighties, (The Smiths and The Go Betweens come immediately to mind), the period where they put out their first records, the ones that still mean the most to me and the ones I keep coming back to and always will. They're just my band, the one I constructed much of my personal identity and perspective of the world from, in my late teens and early twenties when you do these important, unrepeatable things.

'When the light is mine. I felt gravity's pull...'

Fables of the Reconstruction was their third album and was recorded and released in 1985 when they were undergoing a lot of personal change, as was I. I was in the middle of my gap year and then went on from there to university where of course so many of the important things begin to happen. As for R.E.M., they meanwhile found themselves in London, away from their former production team of Mitch Easter and Don Dixon for the first time, recording the album instead with Joe Boyd, producer of Fairport Convention and Nick Drake among numerous other notables.

'He's not to be reached. He's to be reached...'

R.E.M had a famously and well-documented terrible time during the recording of the record. It was cold, they were poor, and existing apparently on a dreadful diet consisting mostly of potatoes in addition to having to become acquainted with the dubious pleasures of the London Underground of the mid-eighties in winter on the way to and from their recording studio. The turmoil they underwent during this period is reported to have brought them to the verge of splitting, though the strong nature of their personal friendships and shared mission, (a notable feature of the band), stopped this from taking place.

'Way to shield the hated heat. Way to put myself to sleep...'

The record they came out with is notoriously muddy. Whereas the production of Murmur and Reckoning is thoughtful and layered and different instruments can be clearly differentiated in the mix, allowing the listener to follow different things each time,  Fables still sounds like thick soup, even thirty years on. Boyd has been repeatedly blamed for this, much to his irritation.The muddiness though for me is part of its attraction and ongoing appeal.

'Two doors to go between. The wall was raised today...'

I bought and heard the record in the autumn of '85, just after returning from Switzerland where I'd been working for six months and where I'd fallen tentatively in love for the first time. I was already in love with R.E.M., however, their mystery and melody chiming with an idea I was developing of myself. I bought the album in Richmond in the company of a friend and went back to his parent's flat to listen. 

'Joe, Bill and Ted, stand on your head, (that's my folly)...'

My first listening reaction was an almost total blank. It was nothing like I'd expected, nothing like either Murmur or Reckoning to my ears. It took me a while. There are of course clear continuations between the three albums, as I came to discover on repeated listens, the melodies, the vocal harmonies, the evocation of the American South and Michael Stipe's lyrical concerns, found poetry and thick vocal burr, almost as incomprehensible as previously in terms of the actual words or coherent sense of individual songs but slowly coming into focus in terms of what he was saying and where all this was going.

'Can't get there from here. (I've been there, I know the way)'

It does take some work however. I'm still working on it and thinking about it thirty years on but the album is worth it and things are beginning to fall into place. Fables is crammed full with duality. An album of eleven songs, each of them to some degree a narrative about the Deep South and the consciousness and troubled eccentricity it generates and shapes. Knowing your Faulkner, McCullers and O'Connor is helpful in this respect because the band feed on these forbears in their early work particularly.

'Green grow the rushes go. The compass points the workers home...'

Life is a great deal about narratives. Which R.E.M knew. They were grounded in narratives. Communal, happy living in Athens, Georgia and a shared experience which is where this record comes from. Listening to their early albums you can hear The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Creedence, The Band coming out of the mix but also the way that veers off into the road into the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Television, and on towards the arty side of UK Punk with Wire and the Gang of Four. 

'Fever built a bridge. Reason tore it down.'

But the narrative here is actually a lot deeper. This is a confused, conflicted record.Ill at ease with itself. And in the tension, the awareness of their potential and the idea of where they might be going is pretty much what makes this the quintessential R.E.M. album along with Murmur and Automatic For the People. Knowing their talent, sure of themselves. Over the next few records they burrowed into the idea of being the biggest band in America and then from there to the world, slimmed down their songwriting craft, first through Fall on Me, then The One I Love and finally Losing My Religion which showed them the way back home to Automatic for the People which is probably their lasting statement and their best record and testament. How they found their way home.

'We never wrote the reasons that I need explained. Some things are givens and others get away.'

Pretty much all of the songs on Fables are unfinished. They're open ended and lonely. Orphans all. They speak of a certain kind of unhappiness and disorientation that never really knows satisfaction.  But not one that doesn't know the way back onto the main road. When I went to see the band play in Hamersmith Palais in the autumn of 1985 with my older brother and younger sister they put on one of the great Rock and Roll shows I'll ever see. As they kicked into the opening bars of Feeling Gravity's Pull, the clean cut American college kids at the front of the venue felt the surge of the London crowd pushing behind them and melted in genuine but slightly unjustified terror toward the back of the venue. From that point on the night was all melody and tension. They were quite remarkable!

'I'd like it here if I could leave and see you from a long way away.'

I haven't told the whole story about Fables here. I can't. Nobody can. It's one of the best open-ended, inexplicable records ever made. You can talk and write about other R.E.M. albums but this one remains elusive. Even to the people who made it I imagine. It's like a fish out of water, flip flopping on planks. It's crammed full of great songs, some of the best this band ever wrote, but none of them done full justice.

'He had a dream one night. That the tree had lost its middle...'

As I write, Peter Buck, the guitarist of R.E.M. and one of the guiding visionaries of this great band has turned sixty and is heading on to sixty one. I wonder what he thinks of this album. I think I read a quote from him today that said that nobody else could have made this particular record. In that respect he's entirely right.

R.E.M. - Seven Chinese Brothers

And for Buck's birthday, a Song of the Day thing I wrote about R.E.M.on here a couple of years back.

'When I get to heaven, the angels will be playing not harps but Rickenbackers. And they will be playing songs by R.E.M.' Matt Snow's NME review of Reckoning 1984

I can't remember the act of buying of many records that became important to me from my youth. Reckoning R.E.M's second album stands out for me in this respect. I had been enthralled by Murmur more than any album before or probably since. I'd missed seeing them at a sold out gig I'd arrived at too late at in Wardour Street at The Marquee. I'd pored over their interviews and begun to soak up their influences. Now Reckoning was out.

I walked with my sister on a hot Saturday  in April 1984 along the straight road that ran alongside our house from Teddington to Kingston bordering Bushy Park. Across Kingston Bridge and to the independent record store where I would later converse with the owner about the spate of American guitar bands that were making their way to the UK's shores.

The cover in itself was enough. Painted by local Georgian artist Howard Finster it was like some dream evocation of the Mississippi. I bought the record. My sister and I got a couple of cans of what as I'm now relocated to the north would be called pop (7 Up if I recall). I dared her to resist from opening hers 'til we'd made it home. It was a very hot day for April. She didn't get very far before she'd finished the whole can. I didn't open mine until we arrived home. It's been an anecdote between us ever since. One of those small, trivial episodes of life that will stay with you forever. Because it's tied in with the memory of purchasing this remarkable record.

When we arrived I went up upstairs and I put it on I was non-plussed. It didn't sound like Murmur Part 2. I didn't really know what to think at first. I'd expected the unfamiliar sound of Murmur that had become familiar through non-stop immersion on my part. Now I'd have to start listening and learning again. This was what made R.E.M. such a standout band. They never ever stayed still. Their career, for me at least until Billy Berry left, was a driven quest. I came round to the record within a few plays as I teased out its hooks, then began to adore it and it's stayed with me ever since. Always pretty close to the top of the whole damned heap. There are greater and lesser songs on it. I'd divide them into two. Songs as great as any in the band's whole set of work and other slightly lesser tracks with a great feel. The great songs to my mind are the first four tracks on the first side Harborcoat, this, So. Central Rain and Pretty Persuasion, plus Don't Go Back to Rockville and Camera from the second side. The second track on the album Seven Chinese Brothers is up there with any of them.

The song is built on a beautiful Peter Buck three part riff, I imagine played on a Rickenbacker. There's a slight eerie echoey sound before the song begins which I love as much as anything in the track. The lyrics are clearer than Stipe's often are but meaning is utterly elusive. The chorus refers to the Five Chinese Brothers story written by Claire Hutchen Bishop in the 30s and an American bestseller and childhood favourite ever since.

'Long ago in China lived a family with five brothers who resembled each other very closely. They each possessed a special talent. One can swallow the sea; one has an iron neck; one can stretch his legs; one can survive fire; and the last can hold his breath forever. When one of the brothers, a somehow very successful fisherman, agrees to let a young boy accompany him on his fishing trip, trouble results. This brother holds the entire sea in his mouth so that the boy can retrieve fish and treasures. When the man can no longer hold in the sea, he frantically signals to the boy, but the boy ignores him and drowns when the man releases the water.

The man is accused of murder and sentenced to death. However, one by one, his four brothers assume his place when subjected to execution, and each uses his own superhuman ability to survive (one cannot be beheaded, one cannot be drowned, one cannot be burned, and one cannot be smothered). At the end of the story, a judge decides that the brother accused of murder must have been innocent, since he could not be executed, and the five brothers return home.'

There's something about the eternal sentiment of the lyric that gnawed itself deep within me. R.E.M.'s staging and arrangement of their early records was just masterly, they really captured some of the tense joy of later teenage years and early adulthood. I'm so glad they soundtracked mine.

They were immersed in the Southern literary tradition of Faulkner, O'Connor and McCullers but also of Brer Fox and Huckleberry Finn. Stipe's own recalling of it's lyric years later when he came out in terms of his sexuality was slightly different and rather less noble.

There are songs I wrote in the past that were gender-specific. “7 Chinese Bros.” was about me breaking up a couple — and then dating both of them, a man and a woman, which is a terrible thing to do, but I was young and stupid.”

Not so stupid. I think he and the rest of the band were remarkably smart and I thank them now for myself and what they gave me. Among them, three of the best gigs I'll ever see over the following four years. They played this song at a couple of the shows.

Peter Buck used the phrase 'Spooky Gospel' to describe Chronic Town's Gardening at Night. I think it applies here. The backing vocals, the assured momentum, repetition and build will always make it a very special four minutes for me. I'll listen to it and love it until I die. R.E.M created a great companion piece called Voice of Harold which they stuck on their odds and sods compilation Dead Letter Office (great name for a record) a few years later. It has Stipe reciting the liner notes of a gospel album over the backing track to the song. It's pretty great too.

Just a footnote to a Pavement song released on a compilation round about the time of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It's a tribute to R.E.M. and this album. As good a direct tribute from one group to another as I can think of and says as well as anything what a wonderful, visionary band R.E.M. were, particularly for me in the first seven or eight years of their existence.

'There's some bands I'd like to name-check
And one of them is R.E.M.
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me


Flashback to 1983
"Chronic Town" was their first EP
Later on came "Reckoning"
Finster's art...
Titles to match "So. Central Rain"
"(Don't Go Back To) Rockville,"
"Pretty Persuasion,"
You're born to be a "Camera"
"Time After Time"'s my least favorite song
"Time After Time" was my least favorite song

The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer, he knew restraint
And the bassman, he had all the right moves
And that guitar player was no saint

So let's go way back to the ancient times
When there were no fifty states
And on a hill, there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates...

And they're marching through Georgia
(They're marching through Georgia)
They're marching through Georgia
They're marching through Georgia
(They're marching through Georgia)
They're marching through Georgia

And there stands R.E.M..'

*P.S. I've just put on that same piece of vinyl that I bought nearly thirty years ago. This article of course is as much about Reckoning as a whole as it is about Seven Chinese Brothers itself. It's still wearing well. It still sounds like one of the best friends I'll ever have.

December 6th 1956 Peter Buck

                                               A hero of mine turns sixty!

Albums of the Year # 20 Esperanza Spalding

Probably the most unpredictable and bravest record on this list. Esperanza Spalding's album Emily's D+Evolution, never stands still for a single moment. Shifting from space to space countless times during the course of each individual track. It's probably the closest thing to a Jazz record on the here but again that's a term that doesn't fully contain it. Not a soothing listen entirely but an incredibly impressive one. One that also has its feet firmly planted in 2016 which isn't the case for all it finds around it on this list, much as love its companions.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 768 The Clovers

Twee # 110 The June Brides

Song of the Day # 1,052 Holly Macve

Not from Tuscon or Memphis but a twenty year old from Leeds. Though she doesn't sing in a Yorkshire accent as the Arctic Monkeys do. Of the three songs I've heard from her this is by far the strongest and the promo video casts it all in a nice light. Sepia tinted, there are clever recalls from David Lynch and Lana Del Ray's Video Games. Blood red lipstick, heart sunglasses, straw hat, desolate seaside town. It wraps its own ready made myth around itself. Very nicely done!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sun Ra

                             Newly compiled and released. Worth entry price for the cover alone.

American States # 36 Wyoming

Always interesting to start an album off with an instrumental. Never mind a whole solo career. As is the case here with Neil Young on his first record.

Songs About People # 251 Valerie Leon

The quite splendid opening track from the latest Daniel Romano album Mosey. Swathes of romantic, weeping sixties style strings in tribute to the Carry On and Bond girl.

Albums of the Year # 21 Margo Price

Written on here back in Spring.

'With Prince's passing on Thursday the press have understandably gone into overdrive into the sheer number of famous and important figures who have passed over this calendar year. Not just in the field of Rock, in the UK at least. Obviously Prince and Bowie stand out in the list as completely irreplaceable figures indicating to some degree that an era has come or is coming to an end. But then again perhaps it never will. Records keep coming out in 2016, sixty years after the start of it all and some very, very good ones too.

We're only coming to the end of April and I can already list fifteen albums that have grabbed my attention so far this year, and reward replaying, this being just the latest. Dressed immaculately in the clothes of absolute classic Country, the debut album of Margo Price, Midwest Farmer's Daughterjust out on Jack White's Third Man Records label. The title of the record and its cover are enough to signal its intention's blindingly. Margo knows her stuff. This is pure Loretta, Tammy, Dolly, Bobbie and Emmylou and every song on the record is deeply steeped in their guiding inspiration.

But it's also at the same time her own story. Very much so. Six minute opener Hands of Time, is surely the most important recorded statement she'll ever make, a potted history of her own narrative. A classic Country tale of loss, struggle, woe, but absolutely grained in gritty determination to endure. Margo's a fighter. It's all sung with that utterly distinctive and familiar Nashville lilt which she nails utterly  Brilliant, inspirational stuff. 

The rest of the record does it proud. A series of battles with errant men, the bottle, the bank manager and the law. Much of it tracing more chapters of her own story, She's only in her early thirties but has already lived the life and this informs her writing and delivery quite beautifully. Some songs strike home more surely than others, the ones most obviously drawn and inspired by her own personal experience are the true pearls.

This is a wonderful record from a true talent.  Not least in terms of its lyrics which indicate a rich and wry comic humour and an uncanny ability to shoehorn beautifully crafted lines into her song's overall structure and shape. It's a lesson, if one were needed,  that this stuff never really goes away or out of fashion. Go to Margo's Spotify Playlist, for a wonderful set of her own influences, a great set of records in this fine tradition. Or just listen to her record or read her story. It's the real deal. Go girl! '

December 5th 1947 Jim Messina

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 769 The Chiffons

Twee # 109 Camera Obscura

Song(s) of the Day # 1,051 P.P.Arnold

Written by Marriott and Lane. Backed by the Small Faces. Oh and just wonderful!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Songs Heard on the Radio # 168 The Chemical Brothers

With Hope Sandoval on vocals. From 1999's Surrender.

Albums of the Year # 22 Big Thief

'This place smells like piss and beer...'

Big Thief's album Masterpiece from earlier this year is the sound of the human heart breaking in twelve different ways. The soundtrack of downtrodden, downbeat, urban America where the combatants cling to each other in the wreckage of their dead end lives.

It's a skillful and wounded document of the ways that life can unwind, and for some inevitably does, not as you'd hoped or expected. Led by the splendidly bruised Frances Quinlan, this Brooklyn band will remind you of plenty else you'll recall fondly from your collection. For me personally it took me back to the early to mid nineties when they were plenty of bands charting this lonelyheart highway with no certain point of arrival. Always room for one more. Especially when it's all rendered as deftly as it is here.

December 4th 1944 Dennis Wilson

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 770 Janet Jackson

Twee # 108 The Clean

Song(s) of the Day # 1,050 The Four Vagabonds

The Four Vagabonds, one of the classic, pioneering vocal harmony groups of the forties. In some ways I suppose they can be seen as precursors for doo wop, the Motown bands of the sixties, (The Temptations and Four Tops), and eventually even boy bands. Though it hardly seems fair to blame the Four Vagabonds for that. 

You can hear the crackle on the records!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Albums of the Year # 23 Black Marble

The starting point for Black Marbles' second album It's Immaterial is quite clearly a love and deep knowledge on the part of its maker Chris Stewart, of the eighties back-catalogue of New Order. There's nothing wrong with that. They were a wonderful band. And Black Marble here provide them with the one thing they essentially lacked, at least in their early days: warmth.

It's a machine generated warmth mind. This is a highly synthetic album. New Order themselves were always a machine-like band but there was also a brittle, vulnerable element to their mix in the vocals, lyrics and generally nervy persona of Barney Sumner which gave them their humanity. Sumner was never really cut out to be a frontman or main songwriter, he was essentially a supporting player, as he would have been first to admit, having been thrust forward out of necessity by the death of Ian Curtis and subsequent collapse of Joy Division.

Chris Stewart, who effectively is Black Marble, provides a warmth transplant in place of Sumner's fragility but otherwise pretty much transports New Order lock stock and barrel from the eighties to 2016. But despite it or possibly because of the neutral hum of Stewart's voice, (effectively here it's an instrument like every other) we feel as if we're stuck in the machine. This is a remarkably consistent album in which one song melts into another and individual tracks are only minimally differentiated. Maybe this album serves as an end destination point for the important first records of Kraftwerk and New Order themselves futuristic as they seemed at the time of their release. Perhaps their future is here. Exemplified by It's Immaterial's conveyor belt production of sleek, near identical songs.

That's by no means a criticism. It seems to me that the android aura of the album and the cloned quality of the individual tracks is quite deliberate. It's by no means an act of retroism, Stewart has no intention of going back to the eighties. Instead elements of the past are skillfully melded into shape, slotted together and assembled like so many car chassis to create a sleek, modern collection of songs and a fine resulting album. 2016's Factory!

December 3rd 1928 Andy Williams

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 771 Jerry Butler

Twee # 107 Prince

No direct link as Prince's songs are not on YouTube. The track is When You Were Mine.

Song(s) of the Day 1,049 Night Manager

Now I can tell you nothing about Night Manager really. Except that they were from Brooklyn and put out a couple of records four and five years back. And they sound absolutely spooked. New Wave guitars, supplemented with Doo Wop harmonies and a vague air of the menace and dark romance that Phil Spector and the Shangri-Las made such good use of in the early sixties.

I have no idea whether they even still exist. They should do in some form at least I'd hope because there's a highly original take on things going on here!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Songs about People # 250 Elizabeth Montgomery

Just one song from the astonishingly assured The Embarrassment, active in the States in the late seventies and early eighties and one of the greatest underachieving bands in the whole of rock history.

Listening through to their compilation Heyday 1979-83 yesterday I was amazed at just how very good they were. It was all there. The melodies, lyrics, imagination, energy, verve and diversity. Pretty much everything you could possibly want from an alternative guitar band. 

Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, their output stands up with those of Mission of Burma and Gang of Four, and the imprint of their sound, inventiveness and restlessness is all over Omni's Deluxe, one of my favourite albums of 2016 which I'll write more about in the coming days. In the meantime, back to The Embarrassment and their tribute to the indescribably wonderful  face of Elizabeth Montgomery.