Archive for the ‘Get This!’ Category

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High Times

September 6, 2017

Wings! The band The Beatles could’ve been!” That’s a line from Alan Partridge. It’s perhaps even his best line. But you knew that already. A-ha.

Between the messy dissolution of The Beatles and the start of the 80s, Paul McCartney kept himself active by touring the world with Wings. Global sellers in their own right, had he only ever created music with Wings, we’d still be talking glowingly about McCartney’s fine musical legacy. As it is, Wings is but a small part in his extensive, sprawling and much undiscovered back catalogue. There’s nuggets in them thar records, just waiting to be unearthed. Many folk know this, but I’d wager that many more don’t.

Even before The Beatles had truly and legally split, McCartney had released his eponymously-titled debut, an interesting collection of snippets and songs recorded at home, some written on the spot, some unwanted leftovers from Beatles’ sessions. Any album that includes Maybe I’m Amazed, Junk and Every Night deserves to be heard.

It would be a mere 9 years – the Wings years – before he’d get around  to releasing the titular follow-up,  McCartney II. Have you ever heard it? It’s nuts. There’s always some wag at work or in the pub who, when you mention The Beatles will tell you they don’t like them. Bollocks! The Beatles have a song for everyone, whether it’s Yellow Submarine or Revolution 9 or anything inbetween. Such a  rich and varied back catalogue reaches out in all directions. But for anyone who tells you they don’t like The Beatles, do two things; 1. Bash them over the head with a heavy frying pan and, 2. After the following history lesson, point them in the direction of McCartney II.

In the run-up to its release, Wings had travelled the world. Well, almost the world. Back in his Beatles days, around their 1966 Budokan dates, McCartney had been caught with marijuana by the Japanese authorities and was immediately banned from the country. The ban stood for over a decade, but the Japanese relented at the tail end of the 70s.

In January 1980, ahead of what would’ve been Wings’ first Japanese tour, McCartney was once again busted for marijuana possession, this time at Tokyo airport and, after 9 days in jail, was ungraciously ejected from the country, an insult and an embarrassment to the Japanese authorities who’d relented on his ban in the first place. Quite what conversations took place ahead of this year’s solo Japanese tour is anyone’s guess, but seemingly Sir Paul McCartney MBE is now as welcome in Tokyo as a delivery of steaks for the sumos in Sapporo.

Where were we?

Oh aye.

In the days following his jail sentence, McCartney found himself back at his farm on the Mull of Kintyre, without a tour, without direction and possibly without a band. So he did what he did best; he dug out his instruments and wrote some songs. Crucially, his usual set up of drums/bass/guitar/keys was augmented by the first phase of samplers and drum machines and McCartney set about creating a new sound.

It’s something of an urban myth these days to suggest that Paul was the ‘soppy, safe’ Beatle and John the ‘edgy, arty’ one. While Lennon was still perfecting his best Dylan sneer on You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, McCartney was heading out (there) to Karlheinz Stockhausen performances and dabbling in musique concrète. It’s a theme that carries to this day, with his ambient and dubby Fireman releases filling up the esoteric corners of his back catalogue alongside his Liverpool Oratorio and sundry other classical pieces. But in 1980, when McCartney II hit the shelves, it proved too much for many.

Even an artist as bulletproof, as guaranteed to sell as McCartney found the going tough; proto techno, blues, chart ballads (Waterfalls), abstract snippets of tunes, it’s a good advert for how (cough) creative you can get when you have an ongoing relationship with soft recreational drugs. No doubt during studio playbacks, McCartney listened through a fug of whatever, judgement quite literally clouded, but listening nowadays, it’s a good album. Not a great album, not perhaps an album that even the writer would point you in the direction of, but it’s certainly not as bad as its sales might suggest. In time it’s grown to be something of a cult album.

It opens with Coming Up, a track that, with its wet funk and chattering guitar interplay screams “Talking Heads!!!” so loudly I can’t begin to wonder how David Byrne must’ve felt when he first heard it. Thrilled on the one hand. Dialling a good copyright lawyer with the other, no doubt. To be fair, McCartney freely admitted he was clearly in awe of Talking Heads and David Byrne’s ‘anti-commercialism’ at the time. And, not that it makes it right, but he’s been on the wrong end of dozens, hundreds, thousands of copy-cat records. Gamekeeper turns poacher, and all that.

Paul McCartneyComing Up

Elsewhere, you’ll find the catch-your-breath, that’s not Paul! Temporary Secretary, all bleeps and bloops and synthetic Kraftwerk rhythms, speeded up vocals spinning ad nauseum.

Paul McCartneyTemporary Secretary

Play it to someone who’s never heard it before and they’ll never believe it’s the same person who plucked Yesterday out of thin air and into homes the world over.

… or the wonky instrumental Frozen Jap (really Paul?!?) with its pseudo Eastern scales and stoned to the bone rudimentary drum machine.

Paul McCartneyFrozen Jap

… or Check My Machine, b-side to the album’s chart hit Waterfalls, with its nagging keyboard riff and Tweety Pie and Sylvester samples. The dull thudding sound you can hear in the background is the sound of the Super Furry Animals and De La Soul fighting it out over the right to sample it first.

Paul McCartneyCheck My Machine

McCartney has better albums; Ram, McCartney and Wild Life for starters, much of Wings’ back catalogue (Band On The Run? Of course. Venus & Mars? Very likely) as confirmation, but if it’s truly out-there stuff you’re looking for from the popstar who, on the face of it, never veers far from the middle of the road McCartney II might just knock yer socks off. Play it for the anti-Beatles person in your life and see what they think.

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I’m Backin’ The Kane Gang

April 18, 2017

A few weeks ago I was involved in putting on a fantastic gig in the tiny but perfect Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine, half an hour from Glasgow on the west coast of Scotland. The main act for the night was BMX Bandits, an act who last graced my hometown a mere quarter of a century ago at one of our Tennent’s Live-sponsored ‘Rock On The Watter’ events. The beginning of the 90s saw Tennent’s dip a corporate toe into the world of live music and Rock On The Watter, which ran annually from 1990-1994 was, in a way, the precursor to T In The Park. Indeed, if our town fathers had had any ounce of rock and roll in their brittle, backwards-thinking bones, TITP might’ve been staged at Irvine’s Beach Park rather than Strathclyde Park in Hamilton. But that’s another story for another day.

As it transpired, Duglas T Stewart had fond memories of playing in Irvine and took great pleasure in eating a banana during the opening song Cast A Shadow – just as they’d done 25 years previously. The gig would unravel to be something of a classic, with a heady mix of Bandits’ greatest ‘hits’ getting a good airing alongside debut live performances from their very imminent BMX Bandits Forever LP. I’ve since heard a couple of these same tracks played on Marc Riley’s 6 Music show, which I suppose gives the whole gig some extra gravitas. The last band to debut new material in Irvine was young upstarts Oasis, who chose the Beach Park in 1995 as the venue in which to float Don’t Look Back In Anger out into the ether, Noel playing his barely-disguised, ham-fisted version of All The Young Dudes with yer actual George Harrison’s actual plectrum. Again, another story for another day.

The whole point of this post though was to highlight the undeniable talents of Joe Kane, the artist who provided support to BMX Bandits in the HAC.

Joe is one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets. He spends most of the year being Paul McCartney in Them Beatles, regarded as one of the most authentic Beatles tributes around. Squint hard enough and he has an undeniable, two thumbs aloft, McCartney look about him. Add a pair of pointy boots, a perma-surprised mouth agape and crucially, a Beatles’ wig, and the look is complete.

For months on end he can be found playing Beatles conventions all over the world. Them Beatles have a trainspotterish approach to authenticity, so going to a show is quite possibly as close as you might get to the real thing. A fantastic array of period guitars – the Hofner bass, George’s Rickenbacker, John’s Let It Be-era Gibson – played through a backline of vintage Vox valve amps, coupled with the studied mannerisms and learned lines of each Beatle – “Rattle yer jewellery,” “Opportunity knocks,” etc etc, all add up to the real deal. Fab, even.

Joe’s ‘hobby job’, if you like, is playing his own music; wonky pop, looney tunes and merry melodies, all swimming in nutty effects with a rich Beatleish undercurrent. It’s a job that’s found him playing sessions on BBC 6 Music, performing alongside the cream of Scotland’s indie elite and co-writing with big hitters (in a parallel universe) such as Norman Blake and the aforementioned Duglas. You may be aware of some of his nom de plumes; The Owsley Sunshine, Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab, as part of Ette…..

Here’s Joe in his Owsley Sunshine incarnation, clattering along like Supergrass doing Badfinger by way of an XTC Bond theme, all compressed vocals, ringing and lightly toasted guitars, stop/start riffs and a brilliant rhythm section – which may be all his own work. (*Update – it’s not, but Joe is happy for you to think that – not for nothing does he have a track called Don’t Pump My Ego, Baby!

The Owsley SunshinePowered By An Electric Shepherd

For the Irvine show, his 4-piece Radiophonic Tuck Shop sounded extraordinary; slightly psychedelic and Super Furry super-tuneful. Amazingly, this was their first ever gig. Not for them though the usual sweat of jittering first-night nerves; Joe surrounds himself with tip-top, top-chops musicians, and the Radiophonic Tuck Shop comprised of seasoned pros (I’m sure that was ‘George Harrison’ stage left) that brought out the best in his songs.

Their set of skewed power-pop went down extremely well, the short, sharp blasts of Nuggety pop from Joe’s back catalogue given an urgent, insistent makeover in the live setting. Intentional or not, each song was counted in with a none-more-Macca “1234!” to great applause, which you could be forgiven for thinking was a smart sample from any one of those early 60’s Beatles’ BBC sessions. As first gigs go, it was a brilliantly explosive cherry-popping and an exciting portent of things to come.

Only Joe KaneAs Hard As I Feel

Only Joe KaneDisnae Time


This coming Saturday (22nd April) will see Joe and his Radiophonic Tuck Shop support Teen Canteen at the launch of their also-endorsed-by-Riley ‘Sirens‘ EP, which is pretty much the perfect double bill if y’ask me. It may well be sold out by now, so if you can’t get to it, keep an eye on the gig listings pages. Joe’s out and about regularly and definitely worth catching. Indeed, the following weekend will see Joe wig out in his Beatles guise, for two shows at Oran Mor, on the 28th and 29th April on Glasgow’s Byres Road. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Tickets can be bought here.

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A Lifetime Of Surprises

April 11, 2017

You can take The Lexicon Of Love away, but I’m keeping Remain In Light….

The Mystery Jets, in their (as it would turn out) ironically-titled ‘Greatest Hits‘, knew the score when they were penning their great break-up song. ABC’s album is a masterclass in heaven-sent melodies and hit singles, but stuck in the 80s with slightly more style than substance and a Trevor Horn production to boot. Talking Heads‘ 4th album endures, remains in light even, to this day.

Arty, smarty, punky and funky, Remain In Light benefits from the combined talents of the four ‘Heads, Brian Eno on sonic architectural duties, Bowie foil Adrian Belew on weird ‘n wonky guitar textures and R’n B belter Nona Hendryx on occasional backing vocals. It’s an astonishing album which, as the cliche goes, sounds as relevant and fresh today as it did in October 1980.

Side 1 (Pffffft. Everyone’s a hipster nowadays) begins with the knockout blow of Born Under Punches, a track that starts as if you carelessly dropped the needle near enough, but not quite at the start. Not for Talking Heads a gentle warm-up to ease into the flow. From the off, Frantz and Weymouth, the symbiotic, married rhythm section drive the track with polyrhythms and a body-poppin’ bassline that George Clinton might’ve strived his whole life to perfect. ‘Take a look at these hands!‘ barks David Byrne, before his own call-and-response vocals allow the chorus to ebb and flow. The music though is relentless throughout, a fantastic opener that sets the scene for what follows.

And what follows is more of the same. Crosseyed And Painless maybe even betters the opener. Short, sharp, barking verses and crooned choruses, with the band whippersnap tight and taut. Eno’s contribution is undeniable. The band are on fire, but the extras he adds lifts the whole thing into the stratosphere. Whooshes and effects, possibly heavily-treated guitar, possibly cutting edge keyboard technology are liberally splashed across the top adding colour to the Talking Heads’ stark noo wave punkoid funk. ‘I’m stiiiiiill waiting!‘ points out David Byrne, as he’s doubletracked with himself into oblivion.

Talking HeadsCrosseyed And Painless

Even more incredibly is the 3rd track, side 1 closer The Great Curve. Without ever dropping a beat, Frantz and Weymouth’s incessant funk continues. Thers’s space here for both Nona Hendryx to do one of her skyscraping hollers in the chorus? The verse? The bridge? Who knows?!? and Adrian Belew to get in on the act with a metallic squall of lead guitar that coulda come straight from a Bowie ‘Lodgers‘ session. It’s just as well you’re forced to get up and turn the record over at this point, as to this day, I still need to catch my breath when the side closes.

Side 2, without being glib, is more of the same; one chord grooves, polyrhythmic percussion, effect pedal-heavy guitar and Eno’s golden ambient touch. Houses In Motion, the flop second and final single from the album is the perfect juxtaposition of Sly Stone’s pitter pattering skeletal funk and Talking Heads’ own Slippery People, still 3 years from release, but surely conceived in this very moment?

Talking HeadsHouses In Motion

Seen And Not Seen is an atmospheric spoken word groove, with a backing track that Grace Jones might’ve utilised to her advantage. Second last track Listening Wind is very Can. Or maybe Can is very Talking Heads. Chanting vocals, meandering, textured music…..  there’s lots going on here. It’s great late-night headphone music. You should try it. Pour yourself a drink of whatever, maybe supplement it with an extra something of your choice. Then close your eyes and see where it takes you, but remember to get up before final track The Overload kicks in. If the previous track is very Can, then The Overload is very, Very, VERY Bowie. More chanting vocals and more ambient textures, it closes the album with a sense of impending doom. Scary Monsters indeed. Perhaps they should’ve left it off the album. It still scares me half to death whenever I forget to lift the needle before it starts.

The big track on the album is Once In A Lifetime, the number 14-with-a-bullet hit single. It’s omnipresent and, I’d wager, so ingrained in the fabric of most of the readership on here that you can hear it just now as you read. You can call it up from the virtual iPod in your brain and it’ll play for you from start to finish, with no need for you to go and find the actual track. The chorus is playing just now, I bet. Amazing that, isn’t it? But have you ever stopped to truly listen to it? It’s an incredible piece of music.

Talking HeadsOnce In A Lifetime

How do you even go about writing a song like that? Did it come from the band riffing on the light ‘n airy grooves of Fela Kuti, whose ‘on the 1’ influenced James Brown? Once In  A Lifetime starts ‘on the 1’, but as Eno has since said, each member of the band had a different ‘1’ to follow. That’s what makes the track sound so different. There’s that brilliant opening bass whoomph and bam! we’re on the one and away with it…..

Did Tina Weymouth come to the session with a killer bassline looking for a song? Did Jerry Harrison, swapping guitar for synth, say, “Hey! I’ve got this little synth riff that I kinda stole from the Velvets’ What Goes On – let’s build a song around it!” Did producer Eno pioneer his Oblique Strategies on the track, the four Talking Heads plus guests individually recording overdubs, unaware of what their fellow band mates had played?  The answer really is that the song is (even) greater than the sum of its parts.

Want more? Here’s the extended version of Once In A Lifetime.

Talking HeadsOnce In A Lifetime (Extended Version)

Random fact. Bassheads‘ 90s rave anthem Is There Anybody Out There? samples the wee tingaling bleeping and blooping keyboard track that weaves it’s way throughout Once InA Lifetime. But you knew that already.

 

*Bonus Track!

As if to underline that Fela Kuti reference, sounding like a manic Moroccan market in the height of summer, here’s Fela’s Riff, an African-influenced unfinished outtake from the album.

Talking HeadsFela’s Riff

If you’ve never heard Remain In Light, I suggest you rectify this forthwith. You can thank me later.

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Plane Or Pan

December 7, 2016

I have a distinct memory from the mid 70s of being plonked in front of the telly to watch what must’ve been a repeat of Concorde’s maiden flight, all far-off (and far-out) shimmer and vapour trails and soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac‘s Albatross. It would be years later before I knew what the music was, but it fitted the imagery perfectly. The one note pulse of the bass and drum beat like the wings of some giant bird (an albatross, I suppose, now that I think about it) while the atmospheric cymbal splashes and swoops and sweeps of the slide guitar mirrored the way Concorde banked up and away to the right after take-off. The main riff is , I think, the reason I’m a total sucker for a harmonising guitar. On Albatross, the twin guitars harmonise practically throughout; tasteful and understated and nothing like the peacocking poodle rockers who appropriated it as their own in the coming years.

concorde

Living closed to Prestwick Airport, our skies were regularly ripped apart by Concorde’s impressive thunder. No matter how many times we’d seen it before, the school playground would be full of parka’d kids pointing at the sky. If the nose was up, the plane had just taken off. If the nose was down, it was coming in to land. That was playground fact. No matter how many times I’d seen it before, the same thing always happened. The world around me would fade away. The focus of everyone’s attention would magically drop into slow motion and Albatross would start playing in my head.

Fleetwood MacAlbatross

One time (1984 perhaps) the actual Space Shuttle re-fuelled at Prestwick, piggybacking atop a jumbo jet. Even then, as we stood, mouths agape and pointing towards the most exciting thing in the world, the slow motion blues of Albatross played in my head. I still didn’t know it was called Albatross at the time, or who it was by, or anything about it, but it was inextricably linked with man-made flight and Concorde. It still is.

For such an iconic tune, it’s surprising to find Albatross hasn’t been covered more than it has. Perhaps it’s the reverence in which it’s held that excludes respectful musicians from butchering it. Hank Marvin could never resist the lure of that twang though, so it’s not surprising to find The Shadows have their own sterile, Asda priced version kicking around like Val Doonican in the 100 Club. It’s not hard to find, but you won’t find it here.

lee-ranaldo

More interesting is the version by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, accompanied by fellow noisy Fender bender J. Masics. It’s soulful, respectful and sounds exactly as you might expect…

Lee Ranaldo Band feat. J. MascisAlbatross

Maybe it’s the textured layers of feedback, or the liberal dosing of effect pedal chaos, but it’s amazing version. I like to think that if (as rumoured) Concorde takes to the skies again, it’ll be this version that plays in my head if I ever catch it in the skies above Ayrshire.

Perhaps even more interesting than the version above is the remix/reinterpretation/call it what you will by ambient producer Chris Coco. A self-titled tastemaker, DJ, broadcaster, producer, music curator, musician and journalist, (phew!) Chris has been at the forefront of dance music since the acid house days in the 80s. At the start of the new millenium he co-presented Blue Room on Radio 1, a show that gave a platform to left-of-centre and new, emerging dance acts. I’m not the most qualified of people to write about such a show, but if you’ve ever been into warped-out, dubby, spacey, downtempo dance music, chances are it first appeared here. That Chris would then go on to become Robbie William’s Tour DJ of choice should not be held against him.

Chris CocoAlbatross

This 11+ minute version of Albatross is magic. Beatless and atmospheric, it takes the original, coats it in a sheen of tinkling electronica and processed trickery and stretches it for maximum blissed out effect. I doubt Peter Green ever had any idea his original would end up in such an altered state, but if it had been him and not Dave Gilmour who’d ended up playing with The Orb a few years back, we may well have had a whole album like this. Imagine that!

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Crate Digging In The 21st Century

November 30, 2016

One of the benefits of being told to “take it easy, relax, do the things you like to do” is that I can find the time to plough through the plethora of music I’m sent on an almost daily basis. A lot of bloggers get real, actual things sent to them in the hope they’ll review them positively and give the company concerned a wee bit of cheap advertising. I wish! I never get anything physical sent my way, but I do get tons of links to Soundcloud, offers of free album downloads, Facebook friend requests and all manner of nice things written in the hope I’ll feature this band or that band on Plain Or Pan.

crate-dig-3

Just so you know, I listen to all my music on a 20 year-old Denon CD player, a near 30 year-old Dual CS 503-1 turntable, an iPod classic through a Bose SoundDock Series II (that won’t charge anymore) and via iTunes on my old steam-powered PC that’s on its very last legs. If anyone out there would like to send me some updated audio equipment, I’d be more than happy to upgrade my listening experience and pass on my positive thoughts to the tens of thousands who drop by here every week. You don’t ask, you don’t get, ‘n all that…

There’s a clue in the strapline up there – Outdated Music For Outdated People – that suggests I may tend to favour old(ish) music on here, and for a particular demographic (marketeers note – I speaka de lingo). Also, as anyone who’s a regular reader here will tell you, not only is the music of the more vintage bent, it’s also fairly easy to pigeonhole; some soul stuff, a whole load of what you’d call ‘indie’, and the occasional post featuring a classic artist, posted with fingers crossed that the DMCA don’t take offence to the embedded (not shared, note!) music file and send me one of their wee ‘take down’ requests. The curse of the music blogger, I get sent lots of them as well.

Despite the strapline and regular subject matter, I get all manner of rubbish sent my way. I’d like to think the folk sending me the links have read the blog, but clearly, these links have been whizzed my way by some misguided robot, lost in space and looking for any port in a storm. Belgian industrial techno. Wimpy, bed-wetting acoustic troubadours. The most derivative, Oasis-inspired tuneless rubbish. They all end up in Plain Or Pan’s inbox, looking for some love and attention.

crate-dig-1

Hello! I would love for you to listen to my clients latest album!

Client? Really?! And no apostrophe! Straight into the virtual bin.

Hey! I work with (band name held to protect the innocent) who I think would be perfect for your rad blog. They do old school glam rock and the lead singer is a daughter of GNR guitarist Gilby Clarke.

Eh. Bin.

Hi! Since I like what you do, I figured you might want to know what I do. I’m a DJ and I’m releasing a house EP…

Eh. Bin.

Hi Plain Or Pan! As a lover of classic rock, I thought you might enjoy the new single by (band name held to protect the innocent). With influences ranging from Whitesnake to Foreigner, they’d be a perfect feature on your cool blog.”

Eh. Bin.

Hey! I just put out my new song (title held to protect the innocent) yesterday and would luuuuuve to know what you think of it. This song is really important to me because of the message behind it…the best world is the one that you create for yourself.

Eh. Bin.

Hey Pain Or Pan! I can’t help but saying I’m a big fan of your blog….loving the features you’ve done. I’ve just put out my projects first single and waffle waffle waffle blah blah blah….”

Big fan. Pain Or Pan. Hee-hee. Projects? Really?! No apostrophe. Bin.

There’s millions more. Gazillions. It’s depressing. John Peel famously listened to everything sent his way, scared that he’d miss the next Velvet Underground or Bowie or Smiths or Half Man Half Biscuit if he ignored them. Not me. I’m happy still discovering the Velvet Underground and Bowie and Smiths and Half Man Half Biscuit. There’s no time for new stuff when there’s so much old stuff out there, waiting for reappraisal and higher status.

 crate-dig-2

That said….

…..the odd nugget does come my way.

Hi man – appreciate you usually work with tracks from ‘the golden age’ but came across your piece on TVAM. I saw him supporting Fews in London a little while back and was blown away, one of the most exciting live acts I’d seen in ages…

Anyway, as you were into him I thought you’d appreciate hearing W.H. Lung, a brand new band straight outta Manchester too with their debut single ‘Inspiration!‘, also taking influence from just the right side of East Germany.”

Great, innit? Takes all the right influences and makes it into a new thing. The singer reminds me of the guy from Flowered Up. They only have this one track online for now, but I’m keeping an eye out for anything else.

 

Keith Canisius lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. He blends shoegaze, dream pop, ambient and lo-fi using alternative production techniques. His new album is called ‘We Are The Dreamers‘. The first track is ‘Milky Way.”

Great, innit? Weird, wonky, other-worldly, it sounds exactly as you’d expect.

 

Max Norton is the drummer for Benjamin Booker. He is also a songwriter in his own right and observes stories through photographs and travelling the world. The sun, desert and 1960s inspire him. He is releasing his solo record, ‘Blood Moon‘ this year.”

Great, innit? Rootsy, tuneful, Fleet Foxes by way of Ryan Adams.

From the tons of emails, there’s three acts featured. I could probably feature another couple, but that’s for another time. There are plenty of great new bands out there. So, if you’re in one of them and you understand what Plain Or Pan is about, send some stuff to this here cool, rad blog. If it’s good it’ll feature here at some point. Until then, where did I put that Stax box set?

 

 

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Staton The Bleedin’ Obvious, Mate!

September 21, 2016

  candi-staton-2

For folk of a certain age, Candi Staton is best-known for the horn-driven, string-swept ‘Young Hearts Run Free‘, the disco track that burned up the charts in the boiling hot summer of 1976. It’s such a golden oldie standard these days that it’s easy to forget just how brilliant it is.

Candi StatonYoung Hearts Run Free

For folk of a different certain age though, she will be best known (maybe even only known) for ‘You Got The Love‘. A track initially released 10 years after her only other hit single, it finally came to prominence 5 years later when The Source transformed the original version into a slowed-down, hands-in-the-air rave generation anthem. With its sparse bassline and E-friendly lyric, it captured the mood of the times perfectly.

The Source feat. Candi StatonYou Got The Love

What many folk might not realise is that Candi Staton is as far removed from the notion of one (or two) hit wonder as is possible. Starting out in the mid 50s as a gospel singer (of course – where else can you develop a voice as powerful, as raw, as sky-scrapingly soulful as hers?) she did the rounds of the secular circuit, regularly crossing paths with a young Aretha Franklin and her preacher dad as they likewise found the feet and voices that would stand them in such good stead in the future.

candi-staton-fame-studios

Growing out of the gospel scene, she signed to Fame Studios in Alabama’s Muscle Shoals and re-branded herself as a Southern Soul belter, a big-voiced, big-haired ‘story’ singer. Her versions of Stand By Your Man and In The Ghetto were nominated for Grammys.

Candi StatonIn the Ghetto

Backed by a countryish, harmonica-led clip-clopping rhythm and see-sawing strings, the production places great emphasis on her voice; rich and soulful, skirting across the top of the original with comfortable ease. Just a thought, but had Brian Wilson visited the wide open vistas of the south instead of playing in his sandpit, he might’ve made records like this.

Fast becoming the go-to act for A&R men who you fancied taking a standard (Nights On Broadway, Suspicious Minds) and turning it into a soulified smash hit single, Candi’s albums at the time were criminally neglected, yet they’re packed full of terrific, rarely-heard Southern Soul smashes; story songs that build and peak and turn you inside out with guilt and pain, yet can keep you dancing all night long.

I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’) is classic Candi. The Staples-esque trembling, wobbly guitar intro and loose Fender Rhodes groove, underpinned by an impressive fret-hopping bass guitar allows her vocals to fly.  It’s a cracker…

Candi StatonI’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)

There’s real grit in her voice, the kind of grit that surely only comes from being a God-fearin’, six-times married Southern woman. Perhaps she took the words of her own Another Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man a little too literally, given that it’s a classic cheatin’ song, a waltz-time tale of infidelity and indiscretion sung from the heart.

Candi StatonAnother Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man

And here’s The Thanks I Get For Lovin’ You, another loose ‘n funky track that calls to mind Aretha in her late 60s peak. A confession song in the same lyrical vein as the one above, you’d think she’d have learned her lesson by now.

Candi StatonThe Thanks I Get For Lovin’ You

A few years ago, Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s Records released a brilliant Candi compilation that gathered together much of the best material from this era. Heartache and heartbreak just never sounded so good. I would tell you to buy the album, but as mock Cockney Damon Albarn might say, that’d be Staton the bleedin’ obvious mate. Bad puns aside, you really should investigate it.

 

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What’s So Amazing? What Keeps Us Stargazing?

September 7, 2016

The perennially-evergreen Teenage Fanclub are currently burning up small venues the length and breadth of the country in a short tour to promote their new album ‘Here‘ which will be, eh, here this coming Friday. The reviews are rave-like in their generosity for the band, perhaps as much an indicator of how much Teenage Fanclub still mean to folk after all these years as much as the gigs are great. Certainly the set-lists have been mouthwatering; a cherry picking of all the best parts of their 26 year history with select new tracks sandwiched in-between where they fit best.

tfc-2016

I used to take great pride in telling folk I’d seen Teenage Fanclub live at least once (and often half a dozen times) a year since 1990 (true, by the way), but since Norman decamped to Canada a few years ago, appearances have been more sporadic. Still, I have a ticket for the big homecoming show at the Barrowlands in December, which, after reading the reviews from Edinburgh last night, I’m impatiently excited about. Like most folk nowadays I’ve had a few listens to the new stuff via an illicit download, something I was keen not to do, preferring to wait for the LP to drop through my door (or more likely a Post office postcard telling me my parcel was at the depot as I’d been out when they delivered) but a link was practically thrust into my hand and, well, what’re you gonna do? It’s terrific stuff, of course, perhaps even ‘Album Of The Year‘ material, but I’m in self-imposed listening exile, waiting until I can stick the record on at full bung in the living room. Only then will I decide on my favourite tracks.

trashcans-kzap

Another band who could easily slip into that ‘Album Of The Year‘ list are the Trashcan Sinatras, but, if you’ve been a regular on here, you’ll be well aware of that by now. The Trashcans and Teenage Fanclub are for me inextricably linked; both from the west of Scotland, of similar age to myself, purveyors of melody-led songs (Songs! Remember them?), long innings with a relaxed approach to releasing new material and both on the edge of cultdom. TFC may be slightly more well-known and, dare I say it, cooler – well, as cool as 5 guys who look like the school prom band made up of moonlighting musicians from the Geography Department can look – but the Trashcans, with their melancholy-tinged pocket symphonies never let me down.

frank-reader-tcs

A few Christmases ago, they made available a free download of The Rainbow Connection, a song that first appeared in 1979 in The Muppets Movie, sung by Kermit the Frog. If you don’t know the Trashcans, this is a very Trashcans thing to do. The song itself is lushly orchestrated, offset by Kermit’s comical croak and creaky front porch banjo.

The original version may have been Oscar-nominated, but the Trashcans make it soar. There’s not much to it really, just a close-miked, crooning Frank accompanied by a couple of guitars, one rich acoustic and one electric, seemingly still playing those bluesy bends that made such a great thing of the band’s Syd Barrett tribute ‘Oranges & Apples’. There’s some synthesised orchestration for good measure and a girl’s voice appears now and again in the chorus in perfect harmony. By the end, the whole things swings and waltzes like a soft shoe shuffle as the ‘oooh-oohs’ fade into the distance.  It’s perfect.

Trashcan SinatrasThe Rainbow Connection

It’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place on current LP ‘Wild Pendulum‘. With it’s rich sonic decoration and loose themes of celestial dreaming it could sit right there at the end of Side 1, the perfect closer for a perfect side of music. Wish they’d thought of that…

I doubt the band would have a problem with you having your own version of their track, so feel free to download it here.

Now go and buy Wild Pendulum from here or here or here. Go! Go! Go!

willie-nelson

Everybody’s favourite pot-smokin’ pig-tailed-sportin’ outlaw cowboy Willie Nelson opened his 2001 Rainbow Connection album with unique arrangement of the title track. Opening with birdsong, mountain streams, a clip-clopping rhythm and a down-home harmonica ‘n sax duet, it’s great. Not Trashcans’ great, but close enough.

Willie NelsonThe Rainbow Connection

*Bonus Track!

Here’s that Muppets version…

The MuppetsThe Rainbow Connection

kermit

 

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