Posts Tagged Music

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

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“Revamped Too” – Tim Bragg (2012)

Revamped Too is largely a compilation of various tracks from Tim Bragg’s back catalogue but also features some brand new recordings plus previously unreleased material. Tim Bragg is a talented and engaging multi-instrumentalist who has composed an impressive body of work comprising several albums that range from protest folk to jazz-rock to pop ballads with an obvious Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy influence. He is also a novelist who has covered such genres as science fiction and political social commentary in works such as “The White Rooms”, “The English Dragon” and “Oak” – themes that have also inspired an earlier album “Fields of England”. Three tracks from this album (which is due for a revamped release in 2013) are featured on Revamped Too: “Rock the Boat” concerns political-correctness; the gutsy “My Family” and my favourite track: “England’s Seal”, a brilliant Marleyish piece of reggae “agitist” reflection.

The album is impressively produced and mixed with a highly attractive cover and features a wonderful assortment of various well-crafted contributions by various musicians – although Bragg at times performs most of the instruments. There is also a rockier cover version of Phil Lynott’s “Kings Call” and a country-rock version of Little Feat’s “Willin’”. Other tracks to look out for are “Sometimes” (which opens and closes the album with different versions) and “These People” (a reference to those folk who wreck other people’s lives!).

An instrumental album “Crossing Over” concerning spiritual themes and exploring the human predicament of death has been recorded and awaits release sometime in 2013, plus the aforementioned revamped version of “Fields Of England” (a work that demands more recognition). Bragg’s move to France has certainly given him a warm objectivity, Buddhist-like detachment and inspiring artistic perspective in the composition of his music – informed as it is by his writing and philosophical insights particularly concerning his former native land. He delivers these songs with heartfelt conviction and integrity. They come from a real place but as someone once said “a prophet is without honour in his own country” (how sadly true of Bragg). Nevertheless this compilation expresses a freshness and positivity rich in soul and genuine creativity, a work that is topical, relevant and delivered with a gritty rustic realism but shot through with warmth and compassion.

Wayne Sturgeon

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Scottish Folk Roots and Offshoots

Scottish Roots and Offshoots

The Royal Oak Bar

Infirmary Street

 

SCOTLAND’S music has travelled all over the world; toAustralia,New Zealand,Canada, but most of all toAmerica.  Scots settled abroad for many reasons; poverty and religious or political persecution at home, or just in search of a new life.  Wherever they settled, they brought their music with them. That’s why one of the songs sung for generations in theAppalachian mountainsmentions the River Clyde.  It’s a folk memory.  Once there, the music met with other strains, mutated a bit and came back here.

This trend is epitomised by the Singer/Songwriter David Ferrard.  AnEdinburghlad himself, his mum is American, and he spent most of his summers as a young man over there, picking ups songs as he went along.

This comes out strongly in his routine which draws together songs from Robert Burns excoriating the politicians of his day as a Parcel of Rogues, romantic Jabobite songs dedicated to the Young Chevalier, Black American freedom songs from the slave era and some of his own composition.  Love songs, sad songs, rude songs and silly songs.  They’re all here.

Ferrard engages with his audience in an understated way that draws them out into singing choruses and participating in ‘hand-dancing’. More than half the audience had seen previous performances and come back for more. What better recommendation can a man have?

 

www.davidferrard.com

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From the Archives – Flux Europa

From the Archives – Flux Europa

FOR TEN YEARS Flux Europa“dark music and more” – provided an alternative review of art, books, films and music.  It seems that the initial inspiration for – and direction of – Flux Europa was provided by Tony Wakeford (1) of Sol Invictus fame (2).  The site was created by Rik and launched in October 1995.  However, it ended active publication in April 2005 and sadly now only lingers on as an archive.

This is a great pity.  It carried excellent reviews of both mainstream artists – such as All About Eve (3), Gary Numan (4) and Soft Cell (5) – and relatively unknown bands like Death In June (6), Inkubus Sukkubus (7) and Minimal Self (8).

Although it modestly describes itself as “an arts zine” it really is much, much more.

Its two core areas are music and art.  Of music it says:

“We specialise in ‘dark-edged’ alternative and avant-garde music variously categorised as neofolk, neomediaeval, ethereal, filmic, apocalyptic folk, dark folk, gothic-industrial, goth-rock, darkwave, dark-ambient, ambient-industrial, dark metal, military bombast, electronic and noise etc. We also cover some early music (Mediaeval and Renaissance), traditional folk music and neoclassical music.”

And of art, Flux Europa notes:

“We cover a number of contemporary artists connected with the above musical genres, but we also have a special interest in Futurism and other aspects of early twentieth-century modernism.”

However, it also features books, films, personae, miscellany and a massive links section.

Although it’s been archive site for six years, we’ve noticed that these sometimes have the habit of suddenly disappearing.  If this happened to Flux Europa it’d be a real tragedy.

Many of its reviews and articles are timeless.  As such they deserve to be syndicated out – to reach as wide an audience as possible.  With this in mind we hope to reproduce as many articles as possible from Flux Europa, to whom we give our acknowledgements.

As these reviews are fairly old, we apologise in advance for any inactive links.  We’ve also had to change some of the pictures used to illustrate a few articles as the originals weren’t as clear as we’d like.

We kick off our homage to Flux Europa with a look at a couple of bands featured in its music section:

15 DELIGHTS OF DIONYSUS

The Nightmare Museum
2002
Limited CDR
The Fossil Dungeon

The 15 Delights of Dionysus (Mike Bull, and Mark and Michael Riddick of The Soil Bleeds Black) emerged from a desire to explore “fringe consciousness and the bizarre in art & sound”, and the group has had several releases on “obscure underground labels”. This one is via Michael’s own Fossil Dungeon and features industrial-ambient and electronic samples but nothing too harsh. I particularly liked the heavily reverbed sixth track where a sort of dark Kraftwerk meets Dead Can Dance.

Excerpts from this CD were featured on a Discovery Channel documentary about ‘Sleep Paralysis’, Alien Abduction: The Mystery Unraveled.

Rik – 23 July 2002

AARDIA

Fairy Tales From Beyond
2003
MCD
Witchcraft and Folklore ARD 003
15:59

Dramatic and menacing percussion, celestial choirs and neoclassical piano characterise Aardia’s debut MCD of film soundtrack music. It’s composed by Patrik Söderlund and Daniel Johnsson and reminds me of those historical epics that my grandmother took me to see as a child, although the actual musical inspiration here is Fabio Frizzi, Carl Orff and Ennio Morricone rather than Cecil B de Mille. One rather suspects that the fellow Swedish project, Arcana, and the American neo-mediaeval project, The Soil Bleeds Black, have also had some influence. On the literary front Aardia cite Lovecraft, Poe and Tolkein as inspirations.

In an attempt to sound literally like a film soundtrack, ‘The Summoner’ begins with a Mediaeval convivial, while ‘Call To Arms’ features whinnying horses and the sound of mortal combat. Incorporation of ‘historical’ SFX and other material always treads a fine line between the convincing and the kitsch. I think Aardia get away with it, but I tend to feel more comfortable with the other two, less literal, tracks. ‘The Wandering’ is percussive enough, but generally less epic in scope and features female vocals by Maria Carström. I think the best track, however, is the title one, ‘Fairy Tales From Beyond’, which has the dramatic neoclassical qualities of the first two without the SFX.

The recording can be downloaded free of charge from the Aardia MP3 website, although you may prefer to own the CD replete with Tolkeinesque artwork.

Rik – 3 March 2003

(1)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Wakeford

(2)  http://www.tursa.com/index.html

(3)  http://www.goony.nl/aae/aae.htm

(4)  http://www.numan.co.uk/

(5)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_Cell

(6)  http://www.deathinjune.net/

(7)  http://www.inkubussukkubus.com/

(8)  http://boomkat.com/cds/95511-minimal-self-formula-of-reversal

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