Saturday, July 28, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 231 SONG #262

Day 231:  A song from one of my favourite albums

Curved Air is one of the British bands from the early seventies that has been labeled "progressive rock". They have chosen their name with respect to Terry Riley's composition "A Rainbow in Curved Air". Their third album "Phantasmagoria" is among my fav albums of all times. It is named after a poem by Lewis Carroll. This is art rock at its best, fine tunes, excellent musicianship, musicians that have control over their instruments and not the other way round, unpretentious, no compositions that try to emulate "classical forms" like symphonies. The members of the band came from a variety of musical backgrounds, classical music, avantgarde, folk and rock, and these elments blend harmoniously on that very album. The album features, among others Sonja Kristina, the only stable member in all the different line-ups of the band and Francis Monkman, who has written the title track. Monkman, a member of The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, was part of the Eno/Manzanera-project 801 (already featured on this here blog). Curved Air have been one of the first "Rock" bands to use the violin, played here by Darryl Way, one of the founding members of the group. The band split up after the release of Phantasmagoria and started with a new line-up in 1973 to record just one album and split up again. On that 1973 line-up, Eddie Jobson played the violin, who, in the same year, came to replace Brian Eno in Roxy Music. Jobson stayed with RM for three albums (Stranded, Country Life, Siren) and played with Frank Zappa in 1976/77 and Jethro Tull in the early 80ies (and every musician that has qualified to play in Zappa's band has my respect, for sure). Here are four songs: 1) Phantasmagoria - the video featured on the Austrian TV-Show "Spotlight" from 1972 - my Austrian friends for sure will know the tv-presenter! 2-3) Melinda (More or Less) from the same album plus live version, song written by lead-singer Sonja Kristina Linwood, and, finally, 4) A Rainbow in Curved Air, the composition by Terry Riley from which the band's name was derived.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 230 SONG #261

Day 230: A song by my favourite "classic rock" group

I have loved Procol Harum (at least in their prime - 1967 to 1977) from my childhood days on, and I especially did like their live album with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra from 1971. Along with Deep Purple's Royal Albet Hall Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra, in my memory, this was the first time that "Rock Music" was performed in a "classical music" setting. Not to be misunderstood, I do not like the renderings of classic rock tunes by symphony orchestras in a "classical" music arrangement. But, with Gary Brooker, this is something else. A Whiter Shade of Pale is said to be based on some works by Bach (although it is not true that its theme is simply taken from a composition by Bach), and I think it is the most widely known Porcol Harum song up till today. Me, I do like "A Salty Dog". Salty Dog is an expression for an experienced sailor, in slang it also bears a sexual meaning (like in the Zydeco-classic "My Woman is a Salty Dog"). The song by Brooker/Reid shows no ambiguities in that sense, it merely is about a sailor. I add it here in memory of B. J. Wilson, who was the drummer in most of the line-ups of Procol Harum in their first decade. He could have been the drummer of Led Zeppelin, but he refused the offer and chose Procol Harum, so Mr. Bonham got the job with Page & friends. It is said that Wilson called A Salty Dog  the most beautiful song he had ever heard after Brooker played it to him for the first time on the piano. It is indeed a beautiful song, it is grand opera, it is touching, it is simply great. Maybe too melancholic a tune to hit the charts. Gary Brooker sometimes dedicates it to B. J.  Wilson (who died in 1997) during live shows. The way the drums come in on that one has shaped my idea of how to play those slow tunes on the drums....

Three versions: the recordig with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, a live Version from 1977 and a bombastic Version with choir and orchestar and all from 2006, with a bonus track (it is by far not that good a tune as A Salty Dog, but it is not bad).

All hands on deck, we've run afloat!' I heard the captain cry
Explore the ship, replace the cook: let no one leave alive!'
Across the straits, around the horn: how far can sailors fly?
A twisted path, our tortured course, and no one left alive

We sailed for parts unknown to man, where ships come home to die
No lofty peak, nor fortress bold, could match our captain's eye
Upon the seventh seasick day we made our port of call
A sand so white, and sea so blue, no mortal place at all

We fired the gun, and burnt the mast, and rowed from ship to shore
The captain cried, we sailors wept: our tears were tears of joy
Now many moons and many junes have passed since we made land
A salty dog, this seaman's log: your witness my own hand

Sunday, July 22, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 229 SONG #260

Day 229: Songs by the Austrian guy that invented the Blues

In today's entry to my recently started sub-series to the 1000 Songs Challenge, entitled "who invented it?" we feature the one man from Vienna's third district that has ultimatively given an answer to the old question "can the white man play the blues?". Al Cook, born Alois Koch in Bad Ischl, Salzkammergut, but of Viennese origin and citizenship, may be the last performer of the true blues in the country style in the whole wide world. On one of his blog entries he even complained about a fellow musician who added some chicago-style-licks to his rendering of a southern-country-style-blues tune. He started out in the early 60ies as a fan of Elvis (up til today his haircut is a reminiscence of that, but he does not like the way in which Elvis' career developed later on), he is a self-taught guitarist and singer (learnt it from listening to records) and he is a blues purist, if there ever has been one. Like me, he is at least suspicious of Eric Clapton, unlike me, he can play the guitar. For those who can read German, here is his homepage, and here is a kind of blog he writes some notes for from time to time on Back in the early nineties, when I was still living in Vienna and, due to my life-style, the only sunday service I could attend regularly was the mass at St. Stephen's Cathedral on sunday evening, I often saw him there. I think he is simply a great guy. Enjoy Al Cook's rendering of Big Fat Mama, the Al Cook Trio doing Sweet Home Chicago and finally, the very best rendering of Silent Night ever recorded:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 228 SONG #259

Day 228: A song about hard work

There are some songs about hard work, most of those I know stem from the musical traditions of African-Americans. I wonder why? Maybe this is my music, rhythm & blues, soul and funk, with a bit of real jazz added. After listening to some versions of the songs I have chosen  for this blog-entry, I am quite sure. But who knows what tomorrow might bring (to quote Bryan Ferry). Certainly, it is not an easy fate to be working on the chain gang. The classic song about it has been written by Sam Cooke, and his interpretation of it is also THE classic one. Nevertheless, the rendering of the song by Otis Redding is also nice, interesting and fine (that is the way some of the early Rolling Stones recordings sounded, those that were truly rhythm & blues, minus horns). Nevertheless, the arrangement of the brass section on the version done by Jackie Wilson & Count Basie is the utmost musical achievement related to that song, in my humble opinion. But I DO like all of these versions, choose your favourite one!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 227 SONG # 258

Day 227: Two of my favourite Acid-Jazz Songs

Call it what you like: Jazz-Funk or Acid-Jazz or whatsoever. At least it is very british. It is very cool music made for and taken from the dancefloors of the 90ies, a kind of reconciliation between danceable music and jazz (the latter having become an academic discipline although it had initially been the music of pimps and gangstas), related to the invention of cool hip hop using jazz samples (Jazzmatazz, f.e.). Ronny Jordan is normally acknowledged as a pioneer of the acid jazz movement, and from his 1993 (double vinyl) album I feature "The Jackal" featuring Dana Bryant. Cool song. A British group that played a main role in the Acid-Jazz times was known as Galliano, one of the main acts signed to the Talkin' Loud label. After having listened to The Jackal you will be left with So Much Confusion

Sunday, July 15, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 226 SONG #257

Day 226: A Song by the African-American guy who invented Rock'n Roll

Before starting with writing another contribution to the question: "Who was the first to turn from Rhythm and Blues to Rock'nRoll?", I have to bring forth a disclaimer: "Rock'nRoll" is a constructed category like "Shamanism" or "Religion" - all these concepts have their roots in the human - some say, in the European - mind's need to organise the perception of the outside world into neatly adjusted categories. Be that as it may, Ellas Otha Bates, a.k.a. Ellas McDaniel, a.k.a. Bo Diddley is my choice for the one who played the main role in inventing Rock'nRoll, for the simple fact that he is credited with the introduction of the so-called "Bo Diddley Beat" to Northern American Popular Music. Later on, this beat has been used in many recordings in the history of Rock Music. Here is  the 1955 rendering of "Bo Diddley", allegedly tne first use of that rhythmic pattern in NAPM:

This rhythm is played on the toms or on the snare drum (with the snares turned off) and the toms by the drummer and normally transcribed like that:

On drummers' blogs you will find a lot of discussions about the sticking - whether you play it hand to hand or all the accents with one hand or use some triplet pattern attached to straight eights to achieve a kind of swing feel and the like. Be that as it may,  the "Bo Diddley Beat" is actually based upon the 3-2 son clave, and sometimes it is simply written down in the same way as the 3-2 son clave (and called a five-accent-pattern, accordingly):

This clave is the backbone of Afro-Cuban music, it is used in Brazilian music and in Haitian Vodun drumming. It stems from West Africa. This closes the discussion of who might have invented IT. Africa locuta, causa finita. I go on with a rendering of "Hey Bo Diddley" introduced by one of the inventors of Rock'nRoll in the 60ies and another version of "Bo Diddley" from Bo's later years (introduced by a man with no less importance for NAPM) - his stage presence explains why he has (more or less) died from the consequences of a stroke he got after performing. And here he uses his trademark self-built square-shaped electric guitar (solely for building that instrument he is to be called the godfather of Rock'nRoll) - Hey Bo Diddley!. 

And finally another famous use of the "Bo Diddley Beat" from the early days of Rock'nRoll, Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive" (already featured on this blog before):

Sunday, July 8, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 225 SONG # 256

Day 225: Songs by the Lady who (allegedly) invented Rock'n Roll

Who has invented Rock'n Roll? Elvis? - nope; Bill Haley? - o please, stop kidding; Chuck Berry - maybe; Bo Diddley - not an unlikely answer; Howlin Wolf? - why not? Ever heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gospel singer who had a big hit in 1939 with a version of "This Train" - a song covered by a multitude of singers and bands. Johnny Cash pretended that she was his favourite singer when he was a child, Little Richard, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis named her as influential and Chuck Berry is said to have copied some of her guitar playing style. From the accoustic guitar we hear on her early  recordings she switched to the electric guitar later on. Some people think, that her 1944 version of "Strange Things Happening Every Day" is the first Rock'n'Roll tune ever recorded. On the English Wikipedia one can read, that this record features an electric guitar played by Rosetta Tharpe. I can hear no electric guitar on the record, and I am rather unsure, whether this can be called Rock'nRoll. Surely, this is Rhythm and Blues in an uptempo style, and so it is music at least representing the roots level of Rock and Roll; whether this is an accoustic or an electric guitar, without any doubts, she could play the guitar just like ringing a bell:

On this here rendering of "Didn't It Rain" from her European tour in 1964 (backed by Otis Spann on piano. Willie Big Eyes Smith on drums and Ranson - some call him Ransom - Knowling on the bass), she plays the electric guitar. This is clearly Rock'n'Roll. And a gospel bonus track is also featured

Finally, her version of "This Train" from that same tour; two remarkable things: first, the way she stops the audience from clapping to the tune and ruining it; second: the way she argues with Otis Spann about his conduct of life:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 224 SONG #255

Day 224: A wonderful song written by Woody Guthrie & Billy Bragg

The song featured today has been recorded ny Billy Bragg and Wilco, and you can also hear the voices of Natalie Merchant and Eliza Carthy when listening to Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key. The lyrics (and some hints on the musical style) have been written by Woody Guthrie, but he has never recorded the song, as he has not done with so many others he has written the lyrics to (so we do not know what the music in his mind was like for these songs). Some of them have been set to music and recorded by Wilco and Billy Bragg on an album called Mermaid Avenue, where this song is taken from. It is simply beautiful, and if the only thing Billy Bragg had ever done had been to do this song, he would be one of my fav guys solely for that. But there are many more things he deserves my respect for.

I lived in a place called Okfuskee
And I had a little girl in a holler tree
I said, little girl, it's plain to see
Ain't nobody that can sing like me
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

She said it's hard for me to see
How one little boy got so ugly
Yes my little girly that might be
But there ain't nobody that can sing like me
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
There ain't nobody that can sing like me

We walked down by the Buckeye Creek
To see the frog eat the goggle-eye bee
To hear the west wind whistle to the east
There ain't nobody that can sing like me
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Oh my little girly will you let me see
Way over yonder where the wind blows free
Nobody can see in our holler tree

And there ain't nobody that can sing like me
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Her mama cut a switch from a cherry tree
And laid it on the she and me
It stung lots worse than a hive of bees
But there ain't nobody that can sing like me
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Now I have walked a long long ways
And I still look back to my Tanglewood days
I've led lots of girls since then to stray
Saying ain't nobody that can sing like me
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Ain't nobody that can sing like me

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 223 SONG #254

Day 223: A song from my childhood, w/h Don Covay

The song from my childhood is "Mercy Mercy" by Don Covay, in the 1965 version of The Rolling Stones - my elder brother (the oldest) owned an album of famous Stones tracks issued by some German magazine (I think it was Bravo) I used to hear and shout to a lot (I remember shouting: HEYHEYYOUYOU GET OFF OF MY CLOUD!!). This album contained the Stones' version of Covay's Mercy Mercy. Here is Covay's own rendering of his song:

I do not know, whether he has written the next song's tune or lyrics, but in my humble opinion, one of the best choices one could make is to do everything in a funky way:

What I do know is that Covay has written this here song, one of the best soul songs ever written, Chain of Fools, a song about a woman who finds out that she is but a link in the chain of women a certain guy "had" - made famous by Aretha Franklin:

And for the sake of childhood memory, the Stones' version of "Mercy Mercy":