I've listened to little else this week, so I'm shamelessly going to call these....
Earworms of the Week
1. The Dancing / Miss Lindsay Barker - June Tabor (2007)
This starts with some gentle, lyrical accordion and has the overall tone of a very refined Irish dance. This is reinforced by the singer's voice, which is a slightly smokey Irish-sounding brogue. Given that Tabor is actually English, I assume that this is just her singing in a "folk" stylee. Although under normal circumstances, I would probably rather immerse my head in a bucket of boiling water before I listened to a song that featured fiddles and singing in a folk stylee... actually, this is really good. It's like listening to a very, very soothing waltz. It's quite a long song (over 7 minutes) and it unfurls in a lovely, relaxed a leisurely way. A good start. Not something that I would naturally listen to, but none the worse for that. This has really grown on me with every listen.
2. Nightsong - Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft (1994)
This song begins with some soft piano chords and is beautifully mixed with the end of the last track's accordion as it fades out. The song itself sounds like a lament for something lost, and conjures up some lovely images: finishing a breakfast egg, blues by Otis Redding, fish and chips on corners, looking at the leaves of trees against the sky in streetlights. It's sad, short and lovely.
3. Builds the Bone - The Hidden Cameras (2004)
Another beautiful mix in with the last track, this one with some guitar, some slowly swelling strings and another Nordic voice sounding sad (although again, my powers of accent identification must be weak as this is a Canadian band). It's a simple song, with a looping feel to it. It's haunting. This is a lot closer to the kind of music I would normally listen to, but it's beautifully crafted. Could easily be used to soundtrack a quiet moment in a film... one of those small budget indie kind of film, possibly featuring a desert. It sounds faintly like Jose Gonazalez, or someone like that.
4. Your Love is a Tease - Rod Thomas (2007)
Immediately this one sounds a lot more poppy, but a sophisticated kind of pop and a long way from the more plastic type of music.... much more crafted. It has a slight echo of the 1980s in it, but I'm thinking of bands like Prefab Sprout. Wikipedia tells me that he's the singer in Matchbox 20 and the singer on the Carlos Santana record "Smooth". I was not aware of that.**
What about this lyric:
"dance like there's nobody watching
if there is, we don't care"
That should be a cliche... and it is a cliche... and yet somehow when I hear it in the context of this song, it isn't.
** no, it's not that guy (Rob Thomas, the singer from Matchbox 20), it's someone else (Rod Thomas, a singer from London). I can't find any more info on him though. Mike?
5. Don't Let Me Down - Charlotte Dada (1971)
This is instantly recognisable as the Beatles song, although it appears to be being played with percussion consisting entirely of people banging on saucepans with wooden spoons. The singer herself sounds slightly creole, I think (although with my record on accents so far...). Ah, she's from Ghana. In it's own way, it's actually quite faithful to the original. Not bad.
6. Go On Fool - Marion Black (1970)
Oh, this sounds as though it's come straight off an old record, with that lovely warm scratchy sound that you just don't get on digitally recorded music any more. What's more, the cracks and pops are entirely appropriate for this record, which is a beautiful, soulful blues track (or is it a bluesy soul track?). It's a classic tale of woe of a man who marries a woman, adopts her children and gets nothing but misery for his troubles. It's a great record and could easily have featured on the "High Fidelity" soundtrack, perhaps with John Cusack's character sat brooding in his chair with his headphones on. Great track.
7. I Just Can't Help Believing - Elvis Presley (1971)
I'm not familiar with the song, but the voice is instantly recognisable, of course. This is a concert recording, and it find Elvis in good form.... it starts out as a slow but happy number that bursts into life at about the 2 minute mark when the horns really kick in and lift the tempo of the song up. All the better for featuring a great Elvis speaky bit: "Sing us out baby. One more time. One more." Superb. The King.
8.Happy Heart - Marc Almond (2007)
Mixed in hard on the heels of the applause at the end of the Elvis track, it's not hard to recognise either Almond's voice or the song itself. It's a dreadfully saccharine song, but Almond somehow imbues it with a sense of drama (or perhaps melodrama?). C. hated this, but I like it. Actually, although I don't own any of his records, I've something of a soft spot for Marc Almond - he wrote the sleeve notes to the first Scott Walker album that I ever bought. I love the way his voice takes off in the chorus, accompanied by trumpets as he soars.
9. Boring - The Pieces (2007)
Just as the mix was taking a plunge towards the sentimental, we are rescued by this marvellous counterpoint.
"Saturday night, we look alright. We're going out.
Paris France, London town, NYC
The chorus then sums it up:
"Nothing thrills us anymore. No one kills us anymore. Life is such a chore when it's boring."
It's a tale of crippling ennui.
"Love of my life
Bear your child
Everything I've ever wanted
I love it. It reminds me a bit of Black Box Recorder.
10. Late December - Maria McKee (2007)
I remember Maria McKee, although this song sounds quite different to "A Good Heart". This song sounds much more mature.... which I suppose is only to be expected, as she's now 43, and wrote that first song when she was 19 years old. This is pleasant enough, but it really doesn't grab me.
11. Our Life is Not a Movie or a Maybe - Okkervil River (2007)
This is brilliant. My favourite song on the mix. Not a band that I've heard of (although coincidentally, after listening to this CD, I stumbled across a tiny little review of their last album in Q). It's probably the guitar and the drums that I first respond to in this record, but the singer has got a really interesting voice and injects a wonderful sense of urgency into the song that really drives it along. Definitely a band I want to hear more of. Great song title too.
12. Matadjem Yinmixian - Tiniwaren (2007)
I'm familiar with Tiniwaren - our Berber guide when we went to the Sahara in 2001 raved about them, and I've actually seen them playing live a couple of times on the Jazz Stage at Glastonbury. The skill with which they weave their guitar lines together is spellbinding, and this song is fairly typical (to my untutored ears, anyway). Whilst I can appreciate the skill though, and sway along to the seductive rhythms, it's not really my cup of tea. It's good, but not something I would want to listen to all of the time. It's a ridiculous comparison, but they're like Muse in that respect: a band I like who are capable of making some brilliant music, but who I find a bit too much to take in if listened to in anything more than small doses. I just compared Tiniwaren to Muse. Sheesh.
13. Keys to Your Heart - The 101'ers (1976)
The year the song was recorded is the giveaway: this is punk. Actually, it's proto-punk: it sounds a bit like punk, but you can also clearly hear the influence of the Beatles in the melody. I was actually intrigued to hear this for the first time I was driving down the motorway to Oxford a couple of weeks ago. Is this just generic punk, or is it something more than that? The singer sounds awfully like Joe Strummer... is he just aping the Clash? As usual, wikipedia comes up with the answer: the 101'ers were the band that Strummer left to join the Clash. Perhaps I should chastise myself for needing to look that up, but actually my primary emotion is a touch of smugness that I picked him out... not that it's too hard with a voice that distinctive. Good song. He'll go far.
14. Shake Some Action - The Flamin' Groovies (1976)
That band name sounds like something out of Austin Powers. Recorded in the same year as the 101'ers song, but it sounds very different. It's not harking forwards towards punk, it sounds as though it's rather looking backwards at the classic pop of the 1960s. It does a good job too. A very presentable record indeed, with a slightly harder edge than some of the 60s songs that it echoes. I could almost imagine this being used on the soundtrack to a Vietnam film... well, it would make a change from the bloody Doors, eh? I really like this one.
15. Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes - Kevin Ayers (1971)
Not an artist that I am familiar with, but one that I know Mike adores, so I'll listen with the appropriate level of reverence. My immediate impression is that I instantly start to earworm "Camouflage" by Stan Ridgeway. That's horribly unfair though, as this is a good record. Perhaps Tom Waits would be a fairer comparison. The song tells a story of how a guy inspires the barman who initially refuses to serve him to quit working for the man and get out to feel the wind on his skin. The change seems to be brought about by a "green cigarette". Make of that what you will.
He was an awfully big marine though.
Good song. Another one I want to investigate further.
16. Born For a Purpose / Reason For Living - Dr. Alimantado (1977)
The name sounds (in my head) unfortunately like Dr. Albarn, but luckily the song sounds nothing like him. This is reggae. I like reggae, but it's one of those genres that I like to have wash over me, and consequently I find it quite hard to judge a single song. I was going to put a reggae song on my own shuffleathon (the Radiodread cover of "Lucky"), but much though I loved the song, I just couldn't make it work on the mix. This song is similar, I suppose, in that it seems a bit out of place. It's not that it's not a good song, because it is. It's just... a bit out of context.
17. If It Feels Good, Do It - Della Reese (1971)
Having said that the reggae seems out of context, I think it's only fair to say that the bassline on this song actually makes it a really good piece of sequencing. This is a very different kettle of fish. It's a big, brassy celebration of a song. I'm not sure that the message of the song is religious, but it sounds almost gospel in it's arms-raised-to-heaven exultation. I've just found myself nodding my head and waving my arms about the place as I sit at my desk. That has to be a good sign, right?
18. The Only Way is Up - Otis Clay (1976)
Yes, it is the same song that I remember as being a huge hit for Yazz and the Plastic Population.... do I even need to say that this version is better? The funky guitar, the brass, the big, beautiful voice that has at least twice as much soul and feeling as Yazz was able to muster on her cover. Aw, dammit, this is a great record (and also another great piece of sequencing with the Della Reese song - the DJ is having a blinder here).
Hold on. Hold on. Won't be long now.
19. Goin' Back - Dusty Springfield (1966)
Yayyyyyyyyyy! Dusty! Greatest female vocalist ever! I love the way that such a crystal clear voice can convey both great coolness and great yearning and sadness. A great way to finish the mix.
So......my overriding impression of this CD is just how well paced it is: each song blends almost seamlessly into the last. On top of that, although almost all of these songs are outside of my usual musical comfort zone, they sound really good when listened to one after the other - a tribute to the compiler, I think. It's fair to say that my own personal tastes in music are quite a lot more up-tempo than this (ROCK!), but whilst this won't be on permanent rotation, I think it's going to make a great playlist for listening to in my quieter moments, especially in the evening. A really good CD, made all the better by the fact that I feel as though I've been challenged. Good job Mike. And I really do want to investigate Okkervil River and Kevin Ayers some more, I reckon.
I'd also be very interested in the compiler's story behind the CD.... What do these tracks mean to you Mike?
Shuffleathon 2007 Update
|3. Cody Bones||yes||yes|
|11. The Great Grape Ape||yes||review|
|30. Max Bob||yes|
|34. Russ L||yes|
|36. Mike T-D||yes||yes|
|38. Me||yes (finally)||review|
Reviews starting to trickle in now....keep'em coming.
Incidentally, credit where credit is due.... the Shuffleathon is an idea that I shamelessly stole last year from the lovely, talented YokoSpungeon.