Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Vic Chesnutt

The Cowboy Junkies have just released what for me is one of their best albums in year “Demons – The Nomad Series Volume 2” (see HERE) which is a section of Vic Chesnutt covers in tribute to their late friend and collaborator.

One of the great pleasures in music is the introduction to a new artist you haven’t experienced and as such I have now subsequently sought out and purchased some great songs by Vic.

Here a couple of my initial favourites.

“When The Bottom Fell Out” – Vic Chesnutt

An adoptee, Chesnutt was raised in Zebulon, Georgia, where he first started writing songs at the age of five.

At 18, a car accident left him partially paralyzed; in a December 1, 2009 interview with Terry Gross on her NPR show Fresh Air, he said he was “a quadriplegic from [his] neck down”, and although he had feeling and some movement in his body, he could not walk “functionally” and that, although he realized shortly afterward that he could still play guitar, he could only play simple chords.

After his recovery he left Zebulon and moved to Nashville, Tennessee; the poetry he read there (by Stevie Smith, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, W. H. Auden, Stephen Crane, and Emily Dickinson) served to inspire and influence him.

When he was 13, Chesnutt declared that he was an atheist, a position that he maintained for the rest of his life.

On December 25, 2009, Chesnutt died from an overdose of muscle relaxants that had left him in a coma in an Athens hospital.

In the 2009 interview with Terry Gross, while discussing the song “Flirted with You All My Life”, he said, “You know, I’ve attempted suicide three or four times. It didn’t take.”

“Flirted With You All My Life” – Vic Chesnutt

Chesnutt’s 1998 album The Salesman and Bernadette was recorded with alt-country group Lambchop as the backing band.

“Square Room” – Vic Chesnutt

My favourite to date though is this lovely song from the album “Drunk”

“Supernatural” – Vic Chesnutt

To buy the music of Vic Chesnutt click HERE

February 28, 2011 Posted by | Old Music | , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Jazz – Claire Martin

My favourite contemporary jazz singer Claire Martin has a new album out on the 21st March 2011 titled “Witchcraft” and it is her second full length collaroration with Richard Rodney Bennett.

The album contains a thoughtful selection of songs from the Cy Coleman songbook and the selection weaves together the opposing vocal talents of  Claire Martin and the polished, savvy keyboard skills and compositional insight of Richard Rodney Bennett.

Claire Martin’s strength as one of the best interpreters of the Great American Songbook and as such the result of this established partnership is mesmorising music, that takes you back to a wonderful and simplier time of yesteryear.

“Would You Believe” – Claire Martin & Richard Rodney Bennett

To buy the music of Claire Martin click HERE

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Jazz Vocal, New Music, New Releases, Uncategorized, Video | , | Leave a comment

Saturday Cover

“Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” – The Who

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Cover Stories, Old Music, Video | , | Leave a comment

Friday Fun – Toy Division

“Happy Days Toy Town” – The Small Faces

Life is just a bowl of All-Bran
You wake up every morning and it’s there
So live as only you can
It’s all about enjoy it ‘cos ever since you saw it
There aint no one can take it away.

So life is just a bowl of All-Bran – very true!
What you say has made it very clear
To be sure I’ll live as best as I can
But how can I remember to keep it all together
When half the moon is taken away?

Well, I’ve got the very thing
If you can laugh and sing
Give me those happy days toytown newspaper smiles
Clap twice, lean back, twist for a while
When you’re untogether and feeling out of tune
Sing this special song with me, don’t worry ’bout the moon
Looks after itself

[Steve:] Can I have a go?
[Ron:] Yes
[Steve:] Yeah?
[Ron:] Sing now:

Give me those happy days toytown newspaper smile
Clap twice, lean back, twist for a while
Well now you’ve got the hang of it
There’s nothing you can’t do with it
If you’re very tuned to it you can’t go wrong.

All together!

Give me those happy days toytown newspaper smile
Clap twice, lean back, twist for a while
Well now we’ve got the hang of it
There’s nothing we can’t do with it
And now we’re very into it we can’t go wrong!

[Stanley Unwin’s nonsense here]

Give me those happy days toytown newspaper smile
Clap twice, lean back, twist for a while
Well now we’ve got the hang of it
There’s nothing we can’t do with it
And now we’re very into it we can’t go wrong!

// //

To buy the music of The Small Faces click HERE

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Humour, Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment

New Music – Cowboy Junkies

One of my favourite groups the Cowboy Junkies have a new album out this week.

It’s title is “Demons – The Nomad Series Volume 2” and it is an album of songs by the late great Vic Chesnutt as a tribute to their long time friend and occasional collaborator.

Here’s what the band themselves had to say about the recording:

“We had been discussing with Vic, off and on for the past couple of years, about doing a Chesnutt/Junkies album. During one of the last conversation that I had with Vic, he mentioned that he was working on a series of songs about his childhood that he wanted to bring to the collaboration. So, it only seems fitting that we record an album of Vic’s songs. His catalogue is so deep and for the most part, so overlooked. It will be a labour of love.”

"Vic Chestnutt"

“We tried to approach Demons with the same sense of adventure that Vic undertook in all of his projects (or at least that is the way his recordings sound). We let happy accidents happen; we tried to invest his songs with the same spirit and the adventure with which they were written, at the same time investing them with our own Northern spin. Exploring his songs and delving deeper and deeper into them has been an intense, moving and joyous experience. I don’t think Vic would have wanted it any other way.”

“Flirted With You All My Life” – Cowboy Junkies

I am a man
I am self-aware
And everywhere I go
You’re always right there with me
I flirted with you all my life
Even kissed you once or twice
And to this day I swear it was nice but
Clearly, I was not ready

When you touched a friend of mine
I thought I would lose my mind
But I found out with time that
Really, I was not ready.

Oh death
Oh death
Oh death
Really, I’m not ready

Oh death you enter me
Death’s unmade those dear to me
And tease me with your sweet relief
You’re cruel and you are constant

When my mom was cancer sick
She fought, but then succumbed to it
But you made her beg for it
Lord Jesus, please I’m ready

Oh death
Oh death
Oh death
Really, I’m not ready

Oh death
Oh death
Oh death
Clearly, I’m not ready

To buy the music of the Cowboy Junkies click HERE

February 24, 2011 Posted by | Cover Stories, New Music, New Releases, Video | , | Leave a comment

Cover Story – The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars are a indie folk duo composed of singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White.

The act’s debut EP, Poison & Wine, and first full-length studio album, Barton Hollow (sensibility music), were helmed by Grammy Award-winning producer Charlie Peacock (Switchfoot, Al Green).

After the Poison & Wine EP released on November 15, 2009, The Civil Wars was selected for iTunes’ “Best of 2010” list and named “Best of What’s Next” by Paste Magazine.

Barton Hollow released on February 1, 2011 and debuted at No. 1 on iTunes’ album sales chart and at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 by selling approximately 25,000 copies its first week out

As an extra track on the album they covered this great Leonard Cohen song

“Dance Me To The End Of Love” – The Civil Wars

To buy the music of The Civil Wars click HERE

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Cover Stories, New Music, New Releases, Video | , | Leave a comment

Cover Story – Rab Noakes

Rab Noakes has been a contemporary songwriter for over 30 years.

From his first album in 1970 “Did You See The Lights” he  firmly established himself at the forefront of Scottish pop music as both a prolific and gifted writer of hook-laden songs and an original and affectionate interpreter of the American popular music back-catalogue.

With material ranging from blues to country, from early Motown to Beck, from Sam Cooke to Radiohead, and from Felice Bryant to the inimitable Rab himself, it is easy to see why his repertoire has been described as “a roots festival in itself” (The Herald).

With a career spanning over fifteen albums and major collaborations with Lindisfarne, Gerry Rafferty, Stealers Wheel and early Dylan producer Bob Johnston, Rab displays “the expertise of someone who’s done it all” (Living Tradition).

In the 1990’s Rab formed the Varaflames, whose members have included such luminaries as Rod Clements (Lindisfarne), guitar wizard Jerry Donahue, Ewen Vernal (Deacon Blue), Pick Withers (Dire Straits) and harmonica ace, Fraser Speirs, with whom Rab still occasionally performs. 

It was a performance with Fraser at Backstage at The Green, in Kinross which I was to attend, though ultimately didn’t, that had me searching my archives recently for some lost tunes.

On doing so and despite him being a recognised songwriter, I came across a few interesting cover version two of which I bring you now from the album “Standing Up” released in 1995.

First up is an interesting take on a talkinh Heads song.

“Psycho Killer” – Rab Noakes

Next one of my favourite Blue Nile songs, but without the voice what is the point?

“The Downtown Lights” – Rab Noakes

To buy the music of Rab Noakes click HERE

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Cover Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes

Every so often in life’s journey I get the feeling of “change ahead” sometimes these feeling result from other events good or bad that I experience, however, sometimes they have no apparant warning and recently I have felt some dark brooding clouds developing.

Fortunately we never really know what lies around the next corner for us but I do feel a “crossroads” approaching, will the right choice be made…only time will tell.

“Cross Road Blues” – Robert Johnson

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “Have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please”

Yeoo, standin’ at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooo eeee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by

Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, risin’ sun goin’ down
Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, eee, eee, risin’ sun goin’ down
I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin’ down

You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
That I got the crossroad blues this mornin’, Lord, babe, I’m sinkin’ down

And I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked east and west
I went to the crossroad, baby, I looked east and west
Lord, I didn’t have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress

In the meantime let’s enjoy and appreciate what we have.

“Changes” – David Bowie

Oh yeah
Mm
Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
Turn and face the strange
(Ch-ch-Changes)
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
Turn and face the strange
(Ch-ch-Changes)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
So the days float through my eyes
But stil the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
Turn and face the strange
(Ch-ch-Changes)
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
Turn and face the stranger
(Ch-ch-Changes)
Where’s your shame
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Ah changes are taking the pace I’m going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

To buy the music of Robert Johnson click HERE

To buy the music of David Bowie click HERE

February 20, 2011 Posted by | Blues, Old Music | , , | Leave a comment

Jack Bruce – Part Two

The formation of Cream in conjunction with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker was Bruce’s ticket to the big time, finally realising some good income from music (though not as much as was expected due to yet another manager rip off story) but more importantly giving him the opportunity to play and reach out to so many new fans without compromising his musical beliefs.

Their sound was characterised by a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock,combining Eric Clapton’s blues guitar playing, the psychedelia-themed lyrics, voice and blues bass playing of Jack and the jazz-influenced drumming of Ginger Baker.

The anticipation had been that the band would give Eric Clapton the conduit to become a band leader and major star, as it turned out initially it was Jack Bruce that emerged as the leader and driving force of the band, however, as we find out in Part Three next week it would indeed be Clapton who would move on to superstar status.

Cream made its unofficial debut at the Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966.

Its official debut came two nights later at the Sixth Annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival.

Being new and with few original songs to its credit, Cream performed spirited blues reworkings that thrilled the large crowd and earned it a warm reception.

In October the band also got a chance to jam with Jimi Hendrix, who had recently arrived in London. Hendrix was a fan of Clapton’s music, and wanted a chance to play with him onstage.Hendrix was introduced to Cream through Chas Chandler, the bassist of The Animals, who was Hendrix’s manager.

Hendrix would later show his admiration for the band by breaking from an agreed script on the Lulu Show to promote Cream by playing “Sunshine Of Your Love”  during his performance of  “Hey Joe”.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves Cream’s debut album, Fresh Cream, was recorded and released in 1966.

It mainly consisted of blues covers, including “Four Until Late”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” (an old blues number recorded by Hambone Willie Newbern in 1926, which became a blues standard thanks to versions recorded by Muddy Waters and Elmore James in the early 1950s), “Spoonful” (written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf), “I’m So Glad” (written by Skip James) and “Cat’s Squirrel”.

The rest of the album featured songs written (or co-written) by Jack Bruce, most notably “I Feel Free” (which was a UK hit single, but only included on the American edition of the LP), and two by Ginger Baker (one of which, “Toad”, contained one of the earliest examples of a drum solo in rock music).

Ginger Baker also collaborated with Jack Bruce’s then-wife Janet Godfrey to write “Sweet Wine”; Godfrey also provided lyrics for the trio’s first original blues composition, her husband’s “Sleepy Time Time.”

Cream first visited the United States in March 1967 to play nine dates at the RKO Theater in New York.

They returned to record Disraeli Gears in New York between 11 May and 15 May 1967 which was released in November 1967 and reached the Top 5 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Produced by Felix Pappalardi (who later co-founded the Cream-influenced quartet Mountain) and engineer Tom Dowd, it was recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York.

Disraeli Gears is often considered to be the band’s defining effort, successfully blending psychedelic British rock with American blues. It was also the first Cream album to consist primarily of original songs, with only three of the eleven tracks written by others outside the band. Disraeli Gears not only features hits “Strange Brew” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses”, but also “Sunshine of Your Love”.

In August 1967, Cream played their first headlining dates in America, playing at the Fillmore West in San Francisco for the first time. The concerts were a great success and proved very influential on both the band itself and the flourishing hippy scene surrounding them.

Faced with a new listening audience, it was during this time that Cream started to stretch out on stage, incorporating more jamming time in their repertoire, some songs reaching 20 minutes. Long drawn-out jams in numbers like “Spoonful”, “N.S.U.” and “Sweet Wine” became live favorites while songs like “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Crossroads”, and “Tales of Brave Ulysses” remained reasonably short.

In 1968 came Cream’s third release, Wheels of Fire, these studio recordings showcased Cream moving slightly away from the blues and more towards a semi-progressive rock style highlighted by odd time signatures and various orchestral instruments.

However, the band did record Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sitting on Top of the World”, plus both Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Born Under a Bad Sign”, which became a popular track off the record.

The opening song, “White Room”, became a radio staple. Another song, “Politician”, was written by the band while waiting to perform live at the BBC.

The album’s second disc featured three live recordings from the Winterland Ballroom and one from the Fillmore. Eric Clapton’s second solo from “Crossroads” has made it to the top 20 in multiple “greatest guitar solo” lists.

While with Cream,Jack Bruce played a Gibson EB-3 electric bass and became one of the most famous bassists in rock, winning musicians’ polls and influencing the next generation of bassists such as Sting, Geddy Lee and Jeff Berlin.

Jack co-wrote most of Cream’s single releases with lyricist Pete Brown, (who remained his co-writer long after Cream as we will see later) including the hits, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “White Room”, and “I Feel Free”.

By 1968, Cream were hugely successful; they grossed more than the next top six live acts of the day added together (including Jimi Hendrix and The Doors). They topped album charts all over the world, and received the first platinum discs for record sales, but the old enmity of Bruce and Baker resurfaced in 1968, and after a final tour, Cream broke up.

Cream were eventually persuaded to do one final album. That album, the appropriately titled Goodbye, was recorded in late 1968 and released in early 1969, after the band had broken up.

It featured six songs: three live recordings dating from a concert at The Forum in Los Angeles, California, on 19 October, and three new studio recordings (the most notable, “Badge“, was written by Clapton and George Harrison, who also played rhythm guitar as “L’Angelo Misterioso”). “I’m So Glad”, which first appeared as a studio recording on Fresh Cream, appeared as a live track on Goodbye. It was the only song to appear on both Cream’s first and last albums.

Following the demise of Cream Clapton went on to form the ill-fated Blind Faith “super group”, Bruce meanwhile had money in his pocket but drugs in his veins resulting from long spells touring the US where any drug was readily available, Bruce developed a heroin habit which stayed with him a long time.

His financial situation however allowed him to set out on a solo career, all three Cream members remained signed to Robert Stigwood’s RSO Label he believing he would now have “three Creams”.

Bruce had other ideas and set of on a cross genre solo career with many highs musically if not commercially and this path will be covered next week in Part Three.

By 1972 Bruce felt he was in need of a return to the mass audience of mainstream rock, possibly as much financially driven as musically or ego driven.

Such an ideal opportunnity arose in the form of “West Bruce and Laing”

The trio formed in Chicago in the spring of 1972 following the breakup of Mountain, which featured occasional Cream  producer Felix Pappalardi, Leslie West and Corky Laing.

The coming together of West, Bruce and Laing was a commercial concept which was designed to build on the success of the two power trios Cream and Mountain as this would be attractiveto the massive US album and concert markets.

As such he trio toured extensively and released two studio albums, 1972’s Why Dontcha

“The Doctor” – West Bruce and Laing

and 1973’s Whatever Turns You On.

They disbanded shortly before the release of their live album Live ‘n’ Kickin’ in 1974.

“Powerhouse Sod” – West Bruce and Laing

Ultimately they failed to deliver and whilst they were a success on tour their music lacked the punch of both Cream and Mountain.

Following the split Bruce returned with more money in his pocket, though less than expected partly due to the hedonistic lifestyle on the road, and an even greater drug dependency.

The flame of creation was not diminished and he would return, all be it to a reduced audience, with more great music which we will cover next week in Part Three.

To buy the music of Cream click HERE

To buy the music of West Bruce and Laing click HERE

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Blues, Books, Cover Stories, Old Music, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Fun – Rock Church

“I Could’ve Had Religion” – Rory Gallagher

To buy the music of Rory Gallagher click HERE

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Blues, Humour, Old Music, Video | , | Leave a comment

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