Posts Tagged Bob Dylan

California Sun – Morrissey

CALIFORNIA SON, Morrissey’s twelfth studio album, is a collection of covers including a few familiar old classics and some maybe lesser known American protest and social

morrissey-california-son

justice songs from the 60s and 70s.  Morrissey and his band never shy away from imaginative musical arrangements, often seeking out unusual instruments, and there are influences here from New Orleans, the old time crooners and a touch of Broadway.  No doubt this is a nod 

 

to his recent sell out residency at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City (NYC).  

The album opens with Morning Starship, the 1973 song by Jobriath.  Morrissey has talked about covering this song for many years, and his version does not disappoint.  He strips back the glam rock just enough to emphasise his wide range of vocals.  It is an uplifting track and was well received when he sang it live on Broadway.

Next up is his version of Joni Mitchell’s Don’t interrupt the Sorrow, a song about Women standing up to male dominance from her 1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns album.  Originally a folky song with lots of hand drums it is given the full Morrissey crooner treatment. Now in his 60th yeapeats on several tracks throughout this album, not least on the very good Wedding Bell Blues on which Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong adds backing vocals.

Morrissey is never one to shy away from a song with a powerful message, and chose to include the 1964 Bob Dylan song Only A Pawn in their Game, written following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.  The message in this song is that the killer was as much a victim or “pawn” of the elites in power as was his victim.  The song was sung at the rally where Martin Luther King gave his“I have a dream” speech.  It’s an interesting choice, as is his excellent cover of Days of Decision.  This is taken from the 1965 Phil Ochs album Ain’t Marching Anymore, with its lyrics: “you can do what’s right or you can do what you are told.”  Maybe in these choices Morrissey is encouraging the listener to look at the lessons of history and to question things a little more?

Buffy Sainte Marie’s Suffer the Little Children is given the full Broadway treatment with big instrumentals and hand clapping.  Buffy, in an interview, said she loved it.

There are very good versions of Carly Simon’s When you close your eyes and Dione Warwick’s Loneliness Remembers what Happiness Forgets.  Gary Puckett’s Lady Willpower is also very well done.  Tim Hardin’s eulogy to his friend Lenny Bruce, Lenny’sTune is perfect for the melancholic signature sound of Morrissey, and whilst this version is not as haunting as the Nico cover it does justice to the original.

Roy Orbison’s It’s Over stays true to the original and is one of the best tracks on the album.  He closes with Melanie Safka’s 1971 Some Say (I got Devil).  The vocals here are excellent and the addition of instrumentals on what was originally an acoustic guitar ballad gives the song new depth.

There really is not a bad track here but the real gift of this album is that it brings to a new generation a selection of protest songs about freedom, social justice and liberty that have a message relevant to today.  It encourages you to seek out the original recordings and the stories behind them.  Morrissey is not afraid to try new genres, or of working with material that others might now find too controversial.  It is why his music endures despite the controversy, the bad press, the lack of radio coverage and the constant personal attacks.  He has already recorded an album of new material for release later in the year.  Retirement does not appear to be on the horizon just yet.

Reviewed by Jacqui Cosgree

Leave a Comment

Lyrics to Live By Keys to self-help – notes for a better life

IT’S often said that the best ideas are the simplest. And this is certainly the case with the idea behind Lyrics to Live By. Indeed, I’d go as far as saying that the idea behind the book is so simple it’s absolutely brilliant.

So what’s the idea, what makes it so simple and why is it literally a stroke of pure genius?

The idea’s so simple because it relates to something that we probably do every time we hear a song – and that’s to sing along to it and wonder what some of the lyrics actually mean.

This basic query about the meaning of the lyrics can also generate many other questions. For instance, how did the song come about, how long did it take to write, what is the writing process and what’s the idea behind the song? Why use the particular set of lyrics that appear? How personal is the song – and does it contain any hidden or subliminal messages?

With this in mind, the publisher of Lyrics to Live By has asked Tim Bragg to interpret the lyrics of a dozen songs. Ten songs were provided by the publisher whilst Tim chose Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away and one of his own compositions, Some Answers.

LyricstoLiveByAdamazonuk

For those who don’t know, Tim Bragg is a multi-instrumentalist and a writer of songs, novels and short stories. Indeed, he has several albums and books to his name. He also has a deep interest in English and green politics and is the founder of English Green – https://www.facebook.com/groups/167522623276444/?ref=br_rs – which describes itself as ‘a group interested in ecology and its relationship with all aspects of human activity. How we co-exist with the flora and fauna and how we conduct ourselves in an ecologically healthy manner and how we achieve a spiritual and material well-being are of particular interest’.

Tim is also a really deep thinker – he describes himself as “the eternal outsider” and has been described as “a provocative intellectual renegade”. He is also interested in issues relating to free speech and English culture, previously describing Stratford-upon-Avon as his “spiritual home”.

In his Foreword, Bragg sets the scene by highlighting the importance of music:

‘But we are drawn to particular songs and musicians who seem to speak to us. They really do help guide us through life and come to our aid when most needed. At our lowest, a song can be played over and over, and this repetition seems to heal. When we are blue a blues song seems to do the trick. And the very personal nature of a song makes it effective for our own personal situation – bad/good or otherwise. I am thankful to the musicians who wrote songs that helped me through difficult times: the end of a love affair … for instance’.

I’m sure we’ve all wondered, why certain lyrics have the ability to strike a chord deep inside us. Indeed, every reader could probably suggest the lyrics of several songs which have really touched them – almost in a spiritual way. To me, it simply illustrates the beauty and power of song. However, has it always been like this – and will it be like this forever?

The lyrics Tim comments on are really varied – they include those from Hey Jude, Stairway to Heaven, Wicked Game and Big Yellow Taxi. The musical genres covered are also fairly broad. Writers include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

I’m not going to give you any details of what he makes of any of the lyrics (and I know that this is extremely strange for a review!) as I want to encourage readers of Lyrics to Live by to really think for themselves. That’s because we live in a world where all sorts of information is readily accessible and Wikipedia is king. Such easy access to information is very much a double-edged sword. On the positive side it enables folks to learn about more-or-less anything under the sun. On the negative side, I fear that many folks are – or have – lost the ability to question information and think for themselves.

Earlier I mentioned that Tim is a very deep thinker, and this is certainly borne out in how he interprets the lyrics. I must admit that I’d often sing along to a song and spend a few minutes contemplating what the lyrics mean. But to actually sit down and to probably spend hours really analysing the lyrics is probably an art form in itself!

This is the first time I’ve read an examination of lyrics to such a high level. Indeed, Tim noted that the process was ‘almost as if meditating’. I really do think that most people will be in awe of (or even shocked at) the depth of thinking employed here. Whether you agree with Tim is open to debate. However, it would really be interesting to know what readers think of his in-depth interpretations.

Lyrics to Live by also poses many questions in itself. I’m not too sure if this was the original intention or simply a by-product of the subject matter?

For instance, I’d particularly like to know how and why the particular songs – and more importantly, the individual lyrics – were chosen by the publisher? I also wondered if there was any sort of thread linking the artists? I presume they must mean something to the publisher, but what? Are they in some way personal, or do they contain any hidden or subliminal messages? Indeed, does Tim’s interpretation of the lyrics match those of the publisher, or are they wildly different? Furthermore, I found it interesting that Tim looked at the lyrics of one of his own songs – I wonder if this was therapeutic in any way?

The Foreword mentions Tim’s admiration for Phil Lynott and Van Morrison, who ‘have certainly helped me through my life’s journey’. Yet neither of them feature in the book. This got me wondering what artists would any of us choose to analyse– and why?

A couple of other things also came to mind whilst reviewing the book:

Firstly, Tim Bragg is a multi-instrumentalist and is comfortable with different genres of music. With this in mind, I presume that a Heavy Metal singer would be more at home looking at the lyrics of a Heavy Metal song. The same would presumably go for a Folk musician with Folk lyrics. However, what would happen if you gave the Heavy Metal and Folk singer the lyrics to a Country and Western song? Would the change of genre completely throw them – or would they both apply the same thought process, successfully analyse the lyrics and manage to overcome the change in musical style?

Secondly, this review has thrown up many unique and interesting ideas and questions. They all lend themselves to a series of books looking at various lyrics and their meanings. I’d love to read the thoughts of other artists – and, in particular, independent artists – in the very near future. Here’s hoping that the first follow-up book is at the planning stage already.

Reviewed by John Field

Lyrics to Live By is available as a Paperback or E-book from all Amazon stores

Comments (1)

This Land

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2012

This Land
The Story of Woody Guthrie

Interplay

Zoo Southside

Woody Guthrie, the legendary American folk singer, was one of the principal musical figures of the early to middle part of the last century. His folk songs caught the mood of his generation with his tales of the great depression, the Oklahoma dustbowls, the war on Hitler’s Germany and the plight of workers and the downtrodden sectors of American society. He went on to influence Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger Phil Ochs and Bruce Springstein. Billy Bragg has recorded a British version of This Land, his best known song.

Punctuated with rumbustious renditions of some of Guthrie’s best known songs, This Land journeys through the highs and lows of his life; from his early days in the dustbowls of Oklahoma to his hospital bed where, by the time he met the young Bob Dylan, he was laid up with the final stages of Huntingdon’s Chorea.

Based on Guthrie’s own memoirs, the story is told by seven different Woodies, each one representing a different phase of his life. This inspirational play demonstrates the man’s dedication in the face of personal tragedy and debilitating life-limiting illness. It’s a perfect play from a perfect cast.

***** Five Stars

David Kerr

http://www.interplayleeds.co.uk/thisland/

Some of the Woodies serenade the audience leaving the theatre; So long, it’s been good to know you…

Leave a Comment