Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Holding Up Half The Sky

A few years ago Shanachie Records released a series of compilation albums each called "Holding Up Half The Sky", which featured female vocalists from different continents, cultures and styles - Asian, Latin, reggae and so on. The only album I have heard is the one featuring African singers, but if the others are half as good they will be well worth a listen. Here are four fine selections from the African album.

"Kanawa" - Aicha Kone (Cote d'Ivoire)

"Hapo Zamani" - Dorothy Masuka (South Africa)

"Yelew Wekesa" - Netsamet Mellessee (Ethiopia)

"Ya Habibi" - Malouma Mint Miadeh (Mauritania)

There are two volumes of Celtic women in the "Holding Up Half The Sky" series. Inexplicably neither of them feature this woman. She's from Skewin, you know.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Down South in New Orleans

Some good time music for you to get you in the mood for Saturday night.

There is an excellent three CD compilation called "Heavy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New Orleans R 'n B" available for download on Amazon and eMusic. The title is self-explanatory. There are 75 tracks from roughly the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.

All the big names from the New Orleans scene of the time are represented - Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Smiley Lewis and so on - though usually with less well-known numbers. Then there are plenty of obscure gems, including these four:

"I Think You're Jiving Me" - Huey & Jerry

"Loud Mouth Annie" - Myles & Dupont

"Hatti Malatti" - Lee Diamond

"Take It Home To Grandma" - Lester Robertson

There was one name that took me completely by surprise - John Fred & The Playboys. Like most people I had only ever heard "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)" and there is nothing in that to suggest that a few years before they were pumping out top notch New Orleans R 'n B. But they were. Here is the evidence.

"Shirley" - John Fred & The Playboys

Also featured is the great, and recently late, songwriter Bobby Charles. Some years later he was befriended by The Band and performed at "The Last Waltz". Their rendition of his "Down South In New Orleans" made the album but not the film. Here is some shaky bootleg footage of that performance. Bobby is the one with the beard and, yes, that is Dr John on guitar.

That's it from me for a few days - off to Madid tomorrow (work unfortunately), back with more on Wednesday.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Frenchy Ragga Time

Who could possibly resist an album called "Frenchy Ragga Dancehall Volume 2"? Not me, which is why I snapped it up when I saw it in the €3 rack at the record shop in Brussels Midi station the other day. There was no sign of Volume 1, unfortunately.

To be honest my taste in ragga and dancehall is very conservative, and Frenchiness I can pretty much take or leave. So I doubt I will be listening to the album very often. But there are a few half decent tracks on there, including one with a guest appearance by Bounty Killer (the only act I had heard of previously).

Here are a couple of selections, both originally released in 2006. According to the sleeve notes, Mighty Ki La is from Martinique and Krys from Guadeloupe. The origins of Blacko remain a mystery.

"D Haut Debats" - Mighty Ki La

"Etre Un Homme" - Blacko & Krys

In a similar style (or should that be "stylee"?) here are Desmond Dekker and Apache Indian. A mighty pair.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Frank & Larry

Monday was a bugger for deaths. Frank Sidebottom and Larry Jon Wilson.

I've been a fan of both of them for many years, and had the great privilege of seeing them both perform, in Frank's case on a number of occasions. Here's a photo I took of him at the Cricketers back in the late 1980s or early 1990s - his Elvis period.

Many of Larry's best moments were vignettes of small town life in the Southern US, while Frank very occasionally mentioned one particular small town in the North of England. They were both one-offs and will be greatly missed. Here are couple of songs from each of them.

"Sapelo" - Larry Jon Wilson

"New Beginnings (Russian River Rainbow)" - Larry Jon Wilson

"Timperley Blues" - Frank Sidebottom

"The Robins Aren't Bobbins" - Frank Sidebottom

Monday, 21 June 2010

Weighty Matters

A little treat from Mali for you today. Here is Sabre Soumano with a couple of tracks from her 2006 album, "Six Kilos".

"Six Kilos" - Sabre Soumano

"Papa" - Sabre Soumano

Six kilos is next to nothing at all and certainly not making such a fuss about. Here is a proper weight.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Meltdown Special

I have spent the last two evenings at the South Bank enjoying a couple of concerts that were part of this year's Meltdown Festival, which was overseen by Richard Thompson. On Friday night it was Van Dyke Parks, supported by Clare & The Reasons. Yesterday it was a double header of Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson himself.

The Van Dyke Parks gig was enjoyable enough, although I doubt it will live long in the memory to be honest. Still, it was good to see the great man in action, holding court from his piano stool, and it was considerably more entertaining than England vs Algeria would have been. Clare & The Reasons were OK as well. Here is one from each of them.

"Opportunity For Two" - Van Dyke Parks (from "Jump", 1984)

"Wake Up (You Sleepy Head)" - Clare & The Reasons (from "Arrow", 2009)

Saturday night's show, by contrast, was fantastic from start to finish. We got a 75 minute set from each of them followed by a joint encore.

Loudon Wainwright was up first. I have never seen him live before and, on this performance, I greatly regret not doing so. I will definitely be making up for that when he is over in London in the future. Most of the set was drawn from his more recent albums, with a few new songs that haven't made it to albums yet and a smattering of old favourites for the likes of me who have rather lost touch with him over the years.

For me the stand-out moment of the set was when he swapped his guitar for a piano and treated us to "Red Guitar" followed by "Another Song In C", which completely blew me (and the rest of the audience) away. As far as I can tell "Another Song In C" has never been officially released, but I have managed to track down a bootleg recording for you, so you can recreate the magic of the moment in the comfort of your own home.

"Red Guitar" - Loudon Wainwright III (from "Album III", 1972)

"Another Song In C" - Loudon Wainwright III (live, Westhampton Beach, 2009)

I have seen Richard Thompson many times over the last 30 years, starting with the infamous "Shoot Out The Lights" Tour when him and Linda were scrapping on stage. He is never less than good, but for me he is at his absolute best when it is just him and his acoustic guitar, as it was last night. I was more familiar with most of his set than Loudon's, although he did preview a couple of numbers from his new album due out later in the year. "Beeswing" and "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" were highlights - as they always are - and so was this one, which I don't recall having heard him play live before.

"King Of Bohemia" - Richard Thompson (from "Mirror Blue", 1994)

For the encore we got a nice mini-set from the two lads comprising Richard's "Down Where The Drunkards Roll", "You Ain't Going Nowhere", "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and an old Marty Robbins number. This one, in fact.

"At The End Of a Long Lonely Day" - Marty Robbins (1953)

They did a great version. But when Loudon said "here's an old Marty Robbins number", I have to admit I was hoping it was this one:

Thursday, 17 June 2010

These Other Ernies

Us Ernies aren't as easy to find as we used to be. I fear we may be a dying breed. Let's try to capture some of the magic before it disappears all together.

Here are four musical Ernies, all of them soul men:

"Mother-In-Law" - Ernie K-Doe (1961)

"Begging You Back" - Ernie Wheelwright (1969)

"Electrified Love" - Ernie Hines (1971)

"Bend Over Backwards" - Ernie Shelby (1972)

And then there is this one, maybe the greatest Ernie of all (and certainly the greatest song by an Ernie):

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

He Did It His Way

As we eagerly await what hopefully will be a resounding victory for Bafana Bafana over Uruguay tonight, let us first pay tribute to the Indomitable Lions of Cote d'Ivoire, who yesterday achieved a thrilling bore draw with Portugal.

Meiway is an eminent Ivorian musician, the creator and leading exponent of a musical style known as "zoblazo", which is described on the RFI Musique website as follows:

"A mix of different folklore from the southern Ivory Coast, Zoblazo has a dance rhythm with a percussion base. Meiway was influenced by his own ethnic group the N'Zema (also called Appolo), but also by numerous other styles from the Ivory Coast or neighbouring countries such as Ghana. This original musical synthesis is made up of modern sounds and is danced to with a white handkerchief as a sign of joy and purity."

Today's selections come from his fourth album, 1995's "Appolo 95 (400% Zoblazo)". We have the title track, which I assume is a tribute to his ethnic group, and "Astrid", a tribute to his daughter. All in all, an album chock a block with tributes.

"Appolo 95" - Meiway (1995)

"Astrid" - Meiway (1995)

I scoured YouTube for clips of people dancing with white handkerchieves, and you will be delighted to know I found one. Let the joy and purity begin!

Monday, 14 June 2010

French Fancies

I've come back from Paris loaded down with all sorts of goodies for you, including a job lot of Americana and blues promo CDs going for €1 each at Crocodisc, and some stuff from Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire plucked out of the €3 a pop bin at Camara Productions in Rue Marcadet.

But before we get to that, here is a little something I picked up when I was over there last month - a compilation of 1960s French pop and (mild) garage called "Gentlemen de Paris", with the self-explanatory sub-title "Groovy Sounds from the 60s".

Today's three selections feature Eric Charden, who is still going strong and still married to the woman he first met around the time of this recording when he was judging a Miss Beatnik beauty contest in which she was a contestant; a cover version of a Four Seasons' album track, "Comin' Up In The World" - there are certain stylistic clues in the performance; and a tribute to Donovan and the man known for a while as the American Donovan, one Bob Dylan.

"Pas Question" - Eric Charden (1966)

"Une Fille Mais Gu'est Ce Que C'est" - Les Anges (1968)

"Dis-nous Dylan" - 5 Gentlemen (1966)

The album also includes a French language rendition of "All Day And All Of The Night" that was produced by the cousin of the French Elvis, Johnny Hallyday. Here is the man himself (Johnny, not his cousin - that would be stupid), duetting with Emmylou Harris on a very nice version of "If I Were A Carpenter".

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Tsonga: Electro, Joe & Penny

The World Cup starts in South Africa on Friday, and this is likely to be my last post before it does as I'm going off to Paris for a few days. So I felt that the time was right to feature the last of the job lot of Tsonga Disco that I picked up in Cape Town at Easter. But before we do, a quick plug.

My new friend Wills Glasspiegel, a professional Brooklyn hipster dude and all round mover and shaker if ever there was one, has done a deal with Honest Jon's (the label owned by Damon from Blur or, for our younger readers, Damon from Gorillaz) to release a compilation of Shangaan Electro. Shangaan is the other name used for and by the Tsonga people and their music, and Shangaan Electro is essentially Tsonga Disco speeded up.

You can learn more about the background to the album in this recent article on Dazed Digital - which also has some excellent video clips - and Wills' own article on The Fader a few months back, which was what first brought us into contact. Clips of all the tracks can be heard at Honest Jon's website, and the album itself comes out on 28 June - BUY IT!!!

As good as it sounds, if forced to choose between them, I would still go for the Tsonga Disco. But then, unlike Wills and his ilk, I'm an old fart and not as supple as I used to be. If the same applies to you, here are two of the finest proponents of Tsonga Disco - our old pals Penny Penny and Joe Shirimani.

While in Cape Town I picked up two of their albums from the early years of the last decade, "Mariyeta Maria" (2001) and "Ndiwe Ndiwe" (2002). Neither album see the lads at the absolute peak of their powers, but there is still a lot of good stuff. Here are a couple of tracks from each.

From "Mariyeta Maria":

"Mberere" - Penny Penny & Joe Shirimani

"Hekele Heke" - Penny Penny & Joe Shirimani

From "Ndiwe Ndiwe":

"Nkosi" - Penny Penny & Joe Shirimani

"Let's Condomise" - Penny Penny & Joe Shirimani (featuring Evelyn Twala)

Penny Penny is affectionately known as Papa Penny to his many fans. Put Papa and Joe together and what do you get (roughly)?

Monday, 7 June 2010

Biff Bang Pau!

You are a peculiar lot and I can't work you out. I put up some classy stuff like The Times or Ismael Isaac and you turn your noses up at it, but you work yourselves into a frenzy when I post some dodgy radio jingles for Coke and Pepsi.

So let's see what you make of this. It is some Catalan psych from a character called Pau Riba. Both are taken from his 1975 album "Electroccid Accid Alquimistic Xoc", for which no translation is necessary I imagine. Fans of Gong should like it but as for the rest of you, who knows.

According to his website, when put through the mangle known as Google Translate, in the same year as the album was released he performed at the first Canot Roc Festival - with hilarious consequences! "Accompanied by its own interpretation 'Spirits' and is a naked middle Vedettes has quedado immortalised in the film of the same name... Whoever signed shortly after 'The New Song' where film, both by the statements that makes the show as by that mount performs 'Girl porcelain dressed girl' etc, causes or Scandal". Just imagine what that must have been like.

Anyway, here he is:

"Lluna Estimada" - Pau Riba (1975)

"Cuatre Basses Blanc I Negre" - Pau Riba (1975)

And here is old Pau in concert in 2007.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Pine Time

As a treat for you today we have three fine versions of "Whispering Pines": the original by The Band and covers by the mighty Kelly Hogan and a woman called Doris. Don't be put off by her name, or the description of her as a "Swedish Petula Clark wannabe", Doris is really rather good.

"Whispering Pines" - The Band (from "The Band", 1969)

"Whispering Pines" - Doris (from "Did You Give The World Some Love Today, Baby", 1970)

"Whispering Pines" - Kelly Hogan & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts ("from "Beneath The Country Underdog", 2000)

Speaking of pines, here's good old Mike Murphey with a song from back in his pre-Martin days when he was good. I'm not so keen on the synth in this but it was the only version I could find:

And you can't really have a pine-themed post without this one:

Friday, 4 June 2010

Difficult Times

Rafa gone. Stevie G and Torres may be off as well. £350 million in debt. It's no wonder that, as far as the red half of the city is concerned:

"(There's A) Cloud Over Liverpool" - The Times (1979)

The Times were basically Ed Ball (of Television Personalities and Teenage Filmstars fame, not a singular version of the British politician). Here is his other major contribution to pop culture. Both of them were big favourites of the young Goggins, and still bring a smile to the face of the middle-aged Goggins even now.

"I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape" - The Times (1980)

Here is a 1983 video for "McGoohan". It has a certain low rent charm.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ismael Vibration

Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh, soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie? No, you're not going to fall for that again, are you. So best if I am straight with you - today we've got a bit of Ismael Isaac.

Being an educated and musically literate bunch most of you will know exactly who I am talking about, but for those few who don't Ismael is a reggae singer from Cote D'Ivoire. He is very much in the style of his fellow countryman Alpha Blondy, but that is no bad thing. Here are a couple of tracks from his 1997 album, "Treich Feeling" - named for Treichville, the district in Abidjan that he comes from.

"Tche Fari" - Ismael Isaac

"Joe Bleck" - Ismael Isaac

Speaking of Alpha Blondy, here is a clip of him achieving what I used to think was impossible - making Pink Floyd palatable. Even with bagpipes it is infinitely preferable to the original. Wish you were there?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Disco Elvis

Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two? Why, it must be Elvis Kemayo, the Cameroon's very own king of disco.

Today's selections come from a CD I picked up in Paris that goes by the name "Bibam: The Best of Kemayo 2". According to the sleeve notes all tracks date from 1975 and 1976, although searching on the Interweb revealed that ten of the thirteen tracks were released on an album called "Tam Tam Song" in 1978. Those ten are a mix of straight disco and disco with an African tinge. The three extra tracks are dreary ballads I could happily have done without.

Here are the two title tracks, both of which I am rather taken with. Special credit must go to Jo Tongo and/or J.C. Molites for the excellent guitar work.

"Bibam" - Elvis Kemayo

"Tam Tam Song" - Elvis Kemayo

For those of you who feel duped after being lured in by my opening line, here's Sammy with a shirt the colour of groovy lemon pie: