Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Donner, On Blitzen...

...but never on smack. I usually avoid christmas songs like the plague, but I´ll make an exception for Martin Mull. "That´s right boys and girls, Santa Claus turns on in his own way..." This whacky ditty stems from Cough Syrup For Elvis Impersonators, a hilarious compilation in the Wavy Gravy vein. Hard to find, but well worth it.

Merry Xmas and a happy new year, readers. I´m off to sunny India tomorrow. Can taste them hot curries and cold Kingfishers already. Back in 2010, with lots of goodies.

Martin Mull - Santa Doesn´t Cop Out On Dope MP3

Monday, December 21, 2009

There Were Moments When

The past...

"Past... well now, let me tell you about the past,
The past is filled with silent joys and broken toys,
Laughing girls and teasing boys,
Was I ever in love? I called it love... I mean, it felt like love,
There were moments when, well, there were moments when..."

This is such an amazing, weird song... In 2 minutes and 44 seconds the writers trio of Jerry Leiber, Arty Butler and Shangri-Las discoverer/producer Shadow Morton manages to conjure up a mysterious mini-opera in three parts. The song´s clever arrangement winks at classical music, setting the perfect scene for leadsinger Mary Weiss´s close-to-tears, spooky spoken vocals, which alternate from the - almost - resigned to the downright desperate.


"Go out with you? Why not...
Do I like to dance? Of course...
Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to,
But don't try to touch me, don't try to touch me,
Cause that will never happen again...
Shall we dance?"

What´s going on here? Just when you thought this was just another song about a past romance gone wrong, the ´don´t try to touch me´ line hints at something darker, something far worse and traumatic. Rape maybe? And that´s probably one reason why the Shangri-Las, undisputed queens of melodrama, never scored a big hit with this ´66 masterpiece, as they did before with predecessors like Leader Of The Pack and Give Him A Great Big Kiss.

The future...

"Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow´s a long way off...
Maybe someday I'll have somebody's hand,
Maybe somewhere someone will understand,
You know, I used to sing - a tisket a tasket a green and yellow basket,
I'm all packed up and I'm on my way and I'm gonna fall in love,
But at the moment it doesn't look good,
At the moment it will never happen again...
I don't think it will ever happen again..."


The Shangri-Las - Past, Present And Future MP3

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ramblin´ Bonny

"My hat don't hang on the same nail too long,
My ears can't stand to hear the same old song..."

Now we´re talking. After the somewhat lackluster crooning of Beware, Will Oldham returns to form in the dying days of 2009 with a mighty fine live registration. Funtown Comedown (vinyl and download only for some reason) is credited to Bonny - with an y this time around - Billy & The Picket Line, and features the lovely Cheyenne Mize on shared vocals. The Picket Line is a bluegrass band from Oldham´s hometown, whose loose and ramshackle sound brings out the best in the Louisville Lion.

Funtown Comedown features delightful new takes of some old Palace and Bonnie Prince Billy classics like Ohio River Boat Song and a wonderful The Glory Goes/Wolf Among Wolves medley, plus fun covers of songs by Ralph Stanley and Merle Haggard. Now I don´t know what attracted Oldham to Haggard´s Ramblin´ Fever in the first place, as the original is pretty much Hag by numbers, and features a rather corny sax to boot. But when the Picket Line gets a groove going and Billy starts whoopin´ it up, it suddenly makes sense.

"Ramblin' fever, the kind that can't be measured by degrees,
Ramblin' fever, there ain't no kind of cure for my disease..."

Bonny Billy & The Picket Line - Rambling Fever MP3
Merle Haggard - Ramblin´ Fever MP3

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ghulam´s Ghazals

When I was in India for the first time, which seems like ages ago, I just had to find me some Indian and Pakistani sounds. Basically raised on Dylan, the Stones and punk rock, I didn´t know anything about that kind of music back then, and hadn´t even heard of giants like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Sabri Brothers or Lata Mangeshkar yet. Someone back home had told me though that ghazals would probably appeal to me. No sitar doodlings going on for ages, but actual songs - poems set to music really - accompanied by traditional Indian instruments such as tabla, sarod and harmonium. And featuring great vocalists to boot. Needless to say, that sure got me curious.

At a cassette stand somewhere in the centre of New Delhi I asked the guy behind the counter what he could recommend and he immediately came up with a tape of Ghulam Ali. This what was I was looking for, no doubt about it. So I bought it of course. Cost me about a dollar, loved it ever since. Play loud, to dig that wonderful, deep, ´underwater´ tabla drum sound.

I´ll soon be back in India for a week, escaping a Christmas at home, and will surely go on another musical shopping expedition one afternoon. Here´s hoping I´ll bring some new exotic treasure home with me. Watch this space.

Ghulam Ali - Hum Tere Shahar Mein Aaye Hain MP3
Ghulam Ali - Kachi Deewar Hoon Thokar Na Lagana MP3

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Bird, Two Lists

If Americana, alt-country or whatever you may call it is your thing, do head over to the Bird List, where thirty of the ´web´s leading aficionados of twanglike music´ picked the best albums of the year. I participated as well, but my list didn´t make much of an impact on the final outcome I guess. Oh well. Maybe I´m just not twang enough.

For the record, here´s my personal top 15 of 2009 as submitted to the Bird List´s totally cool politburo. On the whole, I wasn´t too impressed with what I heard this year to be honest. Quite a few great songs, but not too many consistently great albums. Cool with me though, as that gave me the time to discover tons of amazing older stuff to keep me busy. More about that in a later post.

For The Sake Of The Song´s fave albums of 2009:

1. Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come
2. Bonnie Prince Billy & The Picket Line - Funtown Comedown
3. Bob Dylan- Together Through Life
4. Son Volt - American Central Dust
5. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - s/t
6. Molina & Johnson - s/t
7. Espers - III
8. Port O´Brien - Threadbare
9. King Creosote - Flick The Vs
10. Drive-By Truckers - The Fine Print
11. Iron & Wine - Around The Well
12. Simon Joyner - Out Into The Snow
13. Bowerbirds - Upper Air
14. The Western States - Bye And Bye
15. Magnolia Electric Co - Josephine

Which brings us to the moment you´ve all been waiting for: today´s soundtrack, featuring a few choice cuts from my personal hitlist.

Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2 MP3
Molina & Johnson - Twenty Cycles To The Ground MP3
Espers - Caroline MP3
Drive-By Truckers - George Jones Talkin´ Cell Phone Blues MP3
The Western States - The Water Remembers My Face MP3

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing About Nothing

"San Francisco´s fine.
You sure get lots of sun...
But I'm used to four seasons,
California's got but one."

Sometimes pleasant surprises come from an unexpected source. NCIS is some American tv series I´ve never heard of, but the freshly released soundtrack - NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack Vol. 2. - brings us a brand new old Dylan song: California.

California´s more or less a blueprint for what would eventually become Outlaw Blues, and was recorded at the sessions for Dylan´s landmark album Bringing It All Back Home in January ´65. The song was in circulation among collectors already, and although I´m not completely sure I guess this is a cleaned-up version thereof.

Anyway, it´s always nice to have one more Dylan song to listen to, but California hardly is Bob´s holy grail. Back then, at the top of his game, he could write a song like this in his sleep. Makes sense that he traded it in for the far superior Outlaw Blues, keeping only the closing verse:

"I´ve got my dark sunglasses
And for good luck I´ve got my black tooth,
Don't ask me nothin' about nothin',
I just might tell you the truth..."

Bob Dylan - California MP3
Bob Dylan - Outlaw Blues MP3

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ghost Ships

"Ghost ships are sailing on empty seas, the light in the darkness don´t shine on me..." As an addendum to last Thursday´s post, here´s another - and in my eyes even better - version of the Saints track Ghosts Ships. Found on Saints vocalist Chris Bailey´s first solo effort Casablanca (´83), and with a beautiful semi-acoustic guitar sound, it´s the same song under a different title: Wait Till Tomorrow. "So wait until tomorrow and we will see, I don't know about tomorrow..."

Chris Bailey - Wait Till Tomorrow MP3

And as a bonus, here are a couple more tracks from that slightly overlooked and long out of print album. Bailey trivia fact: although everybody thinks of him as a full-blooded Aussie, he was in fact born in Kenya and carries an Irish passport.

Chris Bailey - It´s Only Time MP3
Chris Bailey - Home Again MP3

Ok ok, here are some classic Saints tracks as well... No Time comes from their punky debut (I´m) Stranded, while Know Your Product (check out them horns) stems from follow-up Eternally Yours, and Temple Of The Lord from All Fool´s Day. "Drag out your chains, let's all be citizen Kane's, and go dance on the edge of disaster..."

The Saints - No Time MP3
The Saints - Know Your Product MP3
The Saints - Temple Of The Lord MP3

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ship Comes In

"A song will lift as the mainsail shifts...". As the final part of a triptych about the sea, here´s a six pack about ships. Again, picking only half a dozen songs wasn´t easy, but here goes.

Chris Bailey and his Saints were once known as a first generation punk band, but these Aussies were a great white soul combo all along of course. The blistering Ghost Ships is further proof of that theory. Meanwhile, John Cale gives new life to the old allegory of the Ship Of Fools. Find it on Fear, one of his stellar seventies albums.

Maki Asakawa is a Japanese artist I know nothing about really, but her jazzy Shipwreck Blues goes down a treat. As for David Ackles, he´s unjustly forgotten. Ballad Of The Ship Of State comes from his ´72 masterpiece American Gothic. "Is the ship going home? Will you take some old young men for crew?"

Tyler Ramsey´s contribution was part of last year´s impressive debut A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea. Hey Tyler, how about a follow-up dude? And for a closer, there´s Dylan´s majestic When The Ship Comes In. This piano-driven version stems from The Bootleg Series 1-3 treasure trove. "And the sun will respect every face on the deck... the hour that the ship comes in."

The Saints - Ghost Ships MP3
John Cale - Ship Of Fools MP3
Maki Asakawa - Shipwreck Blues MP3
David Ackles - Ballad Of The Ship Of State MP3
Tyler Ramsey - Ships MP3
Bob Dylan - When The Ship Comes In

Monday, December 7, 2009

Songs Of The Sea

"Bring me song of the sea... sing me a song of the sea." After a sailor´s theme, a six pack of songs about the sea is so obvious I almost opted out in the end. But as there are simply too many great songs inspired by the briny, I had no choice really. Selecting six beauties out of a truckload of candidates was hard enough. Here´s the ones that made the cut.

Robert Wyatt´s contribution stems from his terrific Rock Bottom album. "You look different every time you come from the foam-crested brine, it's your skin shining softly in the moonlight... partly fish, partly porpoise, partly baby sperm whale..." Great stuff. Postrockers avant la lettre Codeine succeed in matching the rhythm of the waves, while freakfolkers Tunng are stuck in the big city, transistor radio buzzing, longing for the sea.

Iggy finds himself in the service of the bourgeoisie and threatens to jump into The Endless Sea. A gem from New Values, his last really good album. The protagonist of the Hüskers´ classic punk opera Zen Arcade finds himself at a desolate shore. "The waves kept on repeating, each one crashing to the shore, and my footprints nowhere leading, as they disappeared once more..."

And last but not least here´s Sandy Denny again, this time making an appearance with the great Fotheringay. "Sea flows under your doors in London town, and all your defences are all broken down... you laugh at me on funny days, but mine's the slight of hand... don't you know I am a joker, a deceiver? And I'm waiting for the land."

Robert Wyatt - Sea Song MP3
Codeine - Sea MP3
Tunng - Song Of The Sea MP3
Iggy Pop - The Endless Sea MP3
Hüsker Dü - Standing By The Sea MP3
Fotheringay - The Sea MP3

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Sailor´s Life...

 is a merry life. That fado about Portuguese sailors in the post below made me think of other songs about that romantic but slowly disappearing profession. So while it seems that everybody else is busy blogging Christmas ditties (I won´t, promise...) here´s a six pack of delicious sailor songs for you. All hands on deck, lift the anchor, and hoist the main sail. The Titanic sails at dawn.

The alternative bluegrass trio Bad Livers tells all about Pee Pee The Sailor, in a hilarious Butthole Surfers cover. Anyone got the original btw? Never could track it down. Sandy Denny shines in Fairport Convention´s beautiful lament A Sailor´s Life, and master picker Leo Kottke finds a sailor´s grave in the strangest of places.

The Detroit Cobras do the marinero rock, while Tim Buckley goes way out there with some stellar vocal improvisation on Starsailor. Bob Dylan, in a rare live performance from ´92, relates of a female sailor. "In her jacket blue and trousers white, just like a sailor neat and tight, the sea, it was the heart's delight, of the female rambling sailor..." Heave ho!

Bad Livers - The Adventures Of Pee Pee The Sailor MP3
Fairport Convention - A Sailor´s Life MP3
Leo Kottke - The Sailor´s Grave On The Prairie MP3
Detroit Cobras - Hey Sailor MP3
Tim Buckley - Starsailor MP3
Bob Dylan - Female Rambling Sailor (live in Perth ´92) MP3

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Affectionate Tides

Time for something a little different now: the fado of Portugal. Beautiful, timeless music. The special kind of sadness (a.k.a. saudade) that´s inherent to the genre never fails to move me, especially when Amália Rodrigues is behind the microphone. Amália (1920-1999) was the undisputed queen of fado, or in Portuguese, rainha do fado. An amazing singer, she laid down the rules that modern fadistas still respect today.

Here´s a selection of some of her best songs, including my personal favorite: the rather upbeat yet still vaguely melancholic Fado Marujo. For those who´ve never been to beautiful, ramshackle Lisbon: the Madragoa, Bairro Alto and Alfama mentioned in the lyrics are old city quarters.

"Chega a Lisboa, salta do barco num salto,
Vai parar à Madragoa ou então ao Bairro Alto,
Entra em Alfama e faz de Alfama o convés,
Há sempre um Vasco Da Gama num marujo Português...
Sempre que passa um marujo português,
Passa o mar numa ameaça de carinhosas marés..."

Which roughly translates as:
"He arrives in Lisbon, hits the quay in one jump,
He´ll end up in Madragoa or later in the Bairro Alto,
Goes to the Alfama and pretends the Alfama is his ship´s deck,
There´s a Vasco Da Gama in every Portuguese sailor...
Every time a Portuguese sailor passes by,
the sea passes with a threat of affectionate tides..."

Amália Rodrigues - Fado Marujo MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Coimbra MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Fado Malhoa MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Céu Da Minha Rua MP3
Amália Rodrigues - Fado De Adica MP3

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


To celebrate my beloved Barça’s´s impressive 1-0 win in yet another steaming edition of El Classico last night, I proudly present... the cool ruler. Here´s to Puyol, Valdez, Ibra and the rest of the squad. "Extra classic that´s what you are..."

Gregory Isaacs - Extra Classic MP3
Gregory Isaacs - Classy Dub MP3