Jun 30, 2012

Furry Lewis - Grand Central Station (1969)




Something about the way Lewis sings... is it a lisp or is he singing out the side of his mouth? Or is it just years upon years and that's just how it falls out?

"I don't wanna be bothered with no heavy load."

Strangely or unstrangely, he opened for the Stones at two shows in Memphis in 1976.

Blind Blake - Georgia Bound (1929)



Bob Dylan - Born In Time (Live 1998)




Don't bother listening to this during the day. Save it. Play it at the end of the night. Play it loud. Have a drink ready.

Jun 29, 2012

Unheralded Stones Tracks Vol. 3 - Slipping Away (1989)




Dangerous to listen to this one after a few too many beers.

One of those Keith songs that seems to sum everything up. It's his Hoagy Carmichael bent taking over here and it's like being in church. The strange, fucked up church of Keith which is actually more pragmatic and uplifting than being under any Baptist or Catholic roof.

It's one of the Stones masterpiece songs but you don't hear it on Chez 106 because office workers would be rethinking the whole goddamn point in their cubicles and all those reports would suffer wildly because of it.

I remember putting this on at my bachelor party and everyone looking at me thinking "Fuck man, we just want to have a good time, why are you laying this heavy song on us" but I guess this was my idea of a good time. Still is.

Curtis Mayfield - Little Child Runnin' Wild (1972)





I watched Superfly a few weeks ago for the first time and enjoyed it for what it was - what the fuck does that even mean? - but found that Mayfield's songs completely stole the film. You'd think the songs would be a nice push behind what you're seeing on screen but you sit there listening to Mayfield's words and that voice ... it's a better movie than the movie.

I go back and forth on what's the best soul record from this era - Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack or Lee Dorsey's "Yes We Can". The Al Green records are right there too but Mayfield captured something on this album that Green could never approach. It has a bigger scope, not only the words but the arrangements. Listen to the horns and the strings on this thing. It's a huge production but somehow it feels like it's rising off the sewer grates of NYC.

Little Child is the first song on the album. Then it runs right into Pusherman... it's ridiculous how good this one-two punch is. The first two lines of Pusherman are fucking classic.

King Curtis - Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out (1961)





I was going to post LaVern Baker's version of this old Bessie Smith song when I stumbled across this version and took a liking to it. I don't know much King Curtis but he's known as a big time sax player who worked with Buddy Holly, Aretha Franklin and played the sax solos on the Coasters "Yakety Yak". There's something about these slow but loose numbers where the singer doesn't really have to move anywhere to create something... it sounds humid in the studio and it's late and someone's trying to sleep on the couch in the back.

Here's the Bessie Smith version from 1929 which was written a few years earlier by Jimmy Cox:

Nina Simone - Since I Fell For You (1967)




This is a two and a half minute boozy blues standard but Simone puts more guts into those verses than most singers can manage in a whole career. You can hang off every word she lets fall out ... and hang yourself. She's right there with Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. I love this one. She doesn't play with the thing or get cute. It's miserable and perfect.

True story - Michael Bolton attempted this song in the nineties. I haven't heard it, but I'm sure it was good, right guys?

Dwight Twilley - The Luck (1994)




Take the title as a sick joke. Twilley had no luck whatsoever, especially later in his career despite still having the golden pipes and the neverending supply of hooks. This is the title track for a 1994 record that he couldn't even get released and it was shelved until 2001 where it was rearranged and touched up by Twilley and put out on CD. And it's a killer record, full of all the Twilley style hooks he was known for during his peak in the 70's - think Sun Records meets The Beatles meets Pet Sounds. This record is more restrained than his older material and that's fitting for a guy who's been through every kind of professional disappointment imaginable. He had it worse than Alex Chilton and Paul Westerberg combined.

Why didn't he become a huge star? There's lots of reasons I'm sure, but a little theory of mine is that he wasn't helped by his name. People heard the words Dwight Twilley and imagined a hick country singer.

If they did hear him, or a song like "Looking For The Magic" in 1977 (below), they likely didn't know what the fuck was going on. Their loss... and Twilley's. He's been one of my favourites since I first heard him about 12 years ago.

Jun 15, 2012

Alex Chilton - Lipstick Traces (2000)




The second track off a classic Chilton record of R&B covers recorded entirely in one night in NYC. In Europe, this LP was called "Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy" but the American label Bar/None thought the simpler "Set" would go over better in the land of Coca-Cola.

Regardless, this is a record of bare New Orleans style soul and pop that only Chilton could sneer his way through. The legendary New Orleans composer Allen Toussaint wrote this for Benny Spellman who had a small hit with this in 1962 as you can hear below:



I like how Chilton didn't try to make this his own song or rearrange it. He just sang it like any working musician would in a Cleveland pub gig on a weeknight.

I think at heart, Chilton wasn't the tortured artist so many make him out to be. He was a strange bastard for sure, and his records with Big Star are wholly original and worthy of all the analysis and worship. But it's telling that Chilton spent most of his adult life playing New Orleans soul completely straight faced and complaining that his lyrics with Big Star was his "bad teenage poetry". Some people... most people feel they have to choose between Big Star and his later dissimilar solo work, but I dig all of it.

Even "What's Your Sign Girl?". Is he taking the piss here or is he singing his balls off sincerely? Not sure, but I play it whenever I've had a few cold ones...

NRBQ -Get Rhythm (1978)




It's only rock and roll, but I like it. 9 out of 10 kids would call this Johnny Cash cover corny or too on the nose, but who gives a shit about the kids...

I've been a fan of NRBQ since I was obsessed with power pop (for a few years about a decade ago) but now I get more into their stripped down rock and roll numbers like this. It's that rhythm section of Joey Spampinato on bass and Tom Ardolino on drums - imagine if Chuck Berry had toured with these two guys instead of hiring kids along the road for every different show... the backbeat would have levelled clubs across the midwest.

A bit of trivia... Joey Spampinato was handpicked by Keith Richards for the band to back Berry up for the one-off Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll concert filmed in 86 and released in 87. He then went on to play on Keith's first solo record in 88, Talk Is Cheap. Not bad work if you can get it.

Jun 8, 2012

Clarence Ashley - The House Carpenter (1930)



The Band - Bessie Smith (1968??)




Released on Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes, but probably recorded by the Band well past the famous 1967 sessions (some say this was recorded as late as 75 when the Tapes were released but no one can seem to remember), this is one of those Band tracks that no one talks about much, but it goes down good with a glass of something while sitting in a comfy chair by a window and a few more hours to kill on the night. Maybe it will lead you to listen to some real Bessie Smith, like this one here: