Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute

'Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute' is a digital EP, conceived and created by Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff within the space of just two weeks, an admirable achievement under any circumstances. Tracks include 'Space Oddity', 'Heroes', 'Life on Mars', a gripping 'Ashes to Ashes' and a particularly fearless 'Blackstar', featuring Anna Calvi on vocals and guitar. Until March 5th, the bulk of the the proceeds from the EP's sales will go to the cancer research wing of Tufts Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts.

Read more about the project and recording here. Listen to/buy the whole EP here.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Version City #51 - Charles Bradley sings Black Sabbath

I'm sorry if my presence around these parts has appeared a bit fleeting over the past few days. I seemed to achieve very little really, but somehow the week just ran away from me. One tune that did stop me in my tracks the other day though, was Charles Bradley's remarkable cover of Black Sabbath's 'Changes'. It's a song I know intimately from my days as a young, long-haired head-nodder, as the original appeared on my favourite Sabbath LP, 1972's 'Volume 4'. Bradley initially issued the song as a limited edition Record Store Day single in 2013, though has now wisely adopted it as the title track of his forthcoming album, scheduled for release in April.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Iggy Pop

The video contained within the previous post must rank as one of the weirdest oddities that I've ever shared. Today though, it's a return to serious business. A couple of weeks ago, Iggy Pop announced the impending release of his new album, 'Post Pop Depression', on Stephen Colbert's Late Show. 'Post Pop Depression' is produced by Josh Homme, who also plays on the album along with fellow Queen of the Stoneager Dean Fertita and Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys. On the night, the ad hoc band turned in terrific live versions of two songs from the record, 'Gardenia' and 'Break Into Your Heart'.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Maestro Ilaiyaraaja and S.P.Balasubrahmanyam

Several of my blogging buddies have expressed their understandable relief that a pretty rotten January 2016 has finally been consigned to the history books, a sentiment I echo wholeheartedly. To commence proceedings for February on a lighter note, here's a joyous clip from a 1981 Tamil comedy film entitled 'Ellam Inba Mayyam'. In it we see leading Kollywood actor Kamal Haasan lip-syncing and generally freaking out to the incredible 'Solla Solla Enna Perumai', a song written by legendary Indian composer Maestro Ilaiyaraaja with vocals by S.P.Balasubrahmanyam, a man who has allegedly recorded over 40,000 songs since 1965! One of the comments below this clip on YouTube reads, 'Disturbing, demented and life changing. A window into some forbidden realm between 70's funk and a near life threatening fever dream'. I couldn't have put it better myself! Surely Charlie Higson must have had this piece of film in mind when he created his Fast Show character Mikki Disco.

There are three volumes of Ilaiyaraaja's work available on Andy Votel's venerable Finders Keepers record label here, here and here.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Tuff Love

One of my blogging pals pointed me in the direction of Glasgow's Tuff Love last year, but for the life of me I can't remember which one. Whoever it was, allow me to offer my thanks. The band have been variously described as fizzy, fuzzy, sun-streaked and (my favourite) aggressively melodic - and any one of those will do the job. Over the past couple of years, Tuff Love have issued three EP's on The Pictish Trail's, Lost Map label (home, let it not be forgotten, of my favourite LP of 2015, 'Friend' by Rozi Plain). Those three EP's, 'Junk', 'Dross' and 'Dregs', have now been compiled into a 15 track album, 'Resort', due for release right about now. More info here.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Live and Direct - This Is The Kit

Monitor problems. Mysterious and elusive crackling guitar cables. Another guitar requiring retuning mid-song. The drummer's phone briefly interrupting proceedings. A bass guitar that decided to separate from its strap, again in mid-song. All this before the end of the gig's third number. A lesser band might have crumbled at this point, but This is the Kit are made of sterner stuff, overcoming these trifling hurdles to play a joyful, spellbinding concert in the unique environs of the 18th century Octagon Chapel in Norwich.

Unsurprisingly, the set drew heavily from last year's excellent 'Bashed Out' LP, though for me, the absolute highlight of the evening was one of a brace of fine new songs we were treated to, which, judging by the quick inter-bandmember conflab before its performance, is currently being road-tested in more than one arrangement. I didn't catch the title, but hopefully they'll give it another airing when they play at the 6Music Festival in the middle of February.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Suitcase Man

In September, it'll be 45 years since I started at 'Big' school. It was 1971, I was 11 years old and up to that point had only ever worn shorts and casual shirts to school - now all that was about to change. I was expected to arrive at 'Big' school kitted out in full uniform (including long trousers!) and carrying a briefcase - very grown up. As ever, Mum was ready with a camera to capture the moment as I left the house on my first morning. In the resulting photo I look apprehensive about the day ahead and slightly ill at ease in such formal clothing. At school, 95% of the other boys carried traditional leather Gladstone-style briefcases, but having already shelled out for a uniform that I would quickly outgrow, my parents were having none of that. Instead, I inherited a solid, square-cornered attache case that Dad had already used at work for a few years, which only served to make me stick out like a sore thumb in the classroom. Because it looked so different from the norm, I soon acquired the nickname of 'Suitcase Man' from the other kids. It could've been worse I suppose. That's the case in question, perched on the ground next to me in the photo. As it transpired, I actually only had it on loan. After I left school and no longer needed it, Dad reclaimed the attache case and carried it to and from work until his retirement in 1995. Even then he continued to use it at home to store his cheque book, bank statements, outstanding bills and various other bits of household paperwork, right up until his death in 2007.

In 1977, I plucked this little gem from the punk box of the record shop in which I would eventually work. Stanley Frank wasn't a punk and 'S'cool Days' wasn't a punk song, though John Peel played it a few times and it possessed a certain spiky edge that wouldn't have felt out of place on an early Stiff single. It wasn't released on Stiff though. Instead it remains one of only two records I've ever owned on Power Exchange Records (a label usually better known for a strictly middle of the road roster of artists), the other being '(I'm) Stranded' by The Saints.

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