Albums Americana Country AND Western

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two – Story Songs of the Trains and Rivers (Sun 6467012) (1969)

You know how if you say a word enough times it becomes ludicrously and eye-wateringly funny? Try it with the word Lurpak® (an English butter) or make up your own.

See? Hilarious!

Now, the next time you see a picture of Johnny Cash, have a real close look. Take your time and study the picture hard. In the same way, you will find that Johnny Cash is really funny looking, especially his nose.

A trip to Hythe on Bank errands gave me the sneaky opportunity earlier today of finding at Demelza House this transport-themed rockabilly Lp from Cash’s own Sun Sessions (’55-’58), which offers no surprises, but no gaffes and plenty of the Boom-Chicka-Boom you want.

Albums Classical

John McCabe – More Piano Music of Erik Satie (Saga 5472)

One of the most modern aspects of Erik Satie‘s art is the way it sounds spontaneously created, not unlike Gershwin’s later classical-jazz interface. But while Rhapsody In Blue literally scored the great man’s improvisation, Satie achieved freshness with droll, quirky instructions on his sheet music (e.g. play “without pride”, “Fit yourself with clearsightedness”, etc.) in lieu of traditional Italian imperatives for tempo (e.g. largo, moderato, etc.) and volume (fortissimo, pianissimo, etc.) which allows for great interpretive latitude; so, for example, the Gnossiene no.3 here is taken at comparitively breakneck pace. I don’t think you get that level of variation elsewhere in classical music.

Unlike my previous Satie posts, this mint second volume of Piano Music purchased yestiddy in Ashford is comprised entirely of whimsical solo pieces.

12 inchers Hip Hop New Wave

Tom Tom Club/Mr. Yellow – “Genius of Love” b/w “Yella” (12WIP 6735) (1982)

Charming, much-sampled, hook-filled, proto-rap in its long form from Talking Heads offshoot/loose Compass Point studio aggregation, which I’ve been hopin’ to find for some time, turned up cheap this morn at a very crowded Ashford Boot fair. “Yella”, the B-side credited to Mr. Yellow, is a worthy remix of the A and includes toasting to the effect that, “You’ve got to have a strong heart to live in New York…” Which is true enough.

Wouldn’t mind having the “Wordy Rappinghood” twelve and the debut Lp while I’m about it. And maybe the extended version of “Man With the Four Way Hips” from the second album. That’s enough Tom Tom Club.

— Prince Asbo

80s Albums Uncategorized

Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen (1985)

Prefab Sprout Blamed

(Greenwich, London) – Cartographers working for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II have taken the ancient city of Durham, now formerly of Country Durham in northeast England, off the Royal Map. The city was famously “put on the map” in 1985 by indie-pop group Prefab Sprout and their debut album Steve McQueen.

Full of witty lyrics, wistful melodies, clever arrangements and intriguing production touches courtesy Thomas Dolby, Steve McQueen heralded the dawn of great hitmakers in the making. However, the band has been unable to sustain their initial momentum and now languishes in an adult indie-pop ghetto.

“While 80s period touches do date the Lp,” offered music writer Clifford Snoats, “Urbane songwriting and forceful performances lift Prefab Sprout above pretentious and MOR contemporaries, like the Smiths and Crowded House respectively, with whom they share many superficial similarities.”

“Steve McQueen is for people who like their music jangly and bittersweet,” he added.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has ordered mapmakers to remove Durham, legendary founded by Saint Cuthbert in the first millenium, from the map because the local band’s career subsequent to Steve McQueen, though critically lauded, has singularly failed to maintain a high level of public interest.

Clegg admitted that Steve McQueen was “pretty good,” but argued that it was “the kind of indie-pop album that the kind of indie-pop kidz [he] didn’t like back in the 80s were overly-gushy about. And now those people write for frickin’ Mojo.”

80s Albums New Wave

The Police – Ghost In the Machine (1981)

What, you seriously don’t like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”? Wow, you’ve really got time for that?

I suppose you despise reading mystery novels on train journeys and eating cereal for desert. I don’t wonder you’re the kind of person who refuses to share “What do call a guy who…” jokes with friends or enjoy trips to the country to see your cousins. I bet you can’t bear the laughter of children, either.

Jesus, what’s the matter with you?

Oh, I know.

You’re a Hater.

And I pity you.

Albums Gospel Soul

The Original Blind Boys of Alabama – Oldtime Religion (688 520 ZL)

Whether or not there was a Fleetwood Mac-style legal kerfuffle involved, I don’t know, but the Blind Boys of Alabama were sufficiently vexed for whatever reason to add a seminal prefix to their name for this excellent 1963 (?) Lp.  And though Vee-Jay* was home to a fair amount of tough 60s R&B, things get  surprisingly raw for such a venerated, pre-Rock ‘n’ Roll outfit almost 20 years into their career.

By the looks of things, Fontana’s Gospel Train series seems pretty hot–one eye shall be peeled in future for the rest. This particular issue was had from a chaz in Falmouth, where there are several good thrift stores and one brilliant record store, Jam Records.

* Oldtime Religion was originally released in the US as VJLP 5048.


What I See When I Open the Door of the Cupboard Housing My Amplifier &tc.

Albums Folk Outernational

Chikuzan Takahashi – Tsugaru Shamisen (Sony 25AG 347) (1978)

Chikuzan Takahashi (1910-1998) was one of the foremost shamisen (see photo above) players in Japan. “Tsugaru Shamisen” is the name of the ancient, localised folk music which he performed. Though it consists of a recognised repertoire, this is somewhat misleading in that the repertoire has in fact expanded over the centuries, growing and sprouting unseen, like a jasmine tree; also, it is improvisational, so while a player may perform a given song from the canon, it will inevitably be a highly individual take on the piece. My ignorance knows few bounds here and I may have got some of these facts wrong–so don’t quote me.

I can't understand why the label template is in English for this Japanese issue.

A live recording taped in Japan in the 70s, though you certainly won’t confuse it with Cheap Trick at Budokan, this solo concert was performed in front of an audience of what sounds like 40 people; while respectful silence reigns for most of Tsugaru Shamisen, Takahashi does manage to crack a few jokes, judging by the occasional laughter (my Japanese is not so good).

In a kind of world-folk crossover, Takahashi extemporises extended pieces which, though literally from the other end of the world, are not a million metaphorical miles away from the nasal, droning mandolin/guitar Mountain Music of my West Virginian kin. Coincidentally, Takahashi named many of his improvs “Iwaki” after the tallest mountain in Tsugaru. With a (not very sustained) drone produced by what must be the equivalent of the power chord on the shamisen, there are a significant resemblances to Indian classical music as well.

Despite a hypnotic effect, this is not some blanded-out Music For Meditation nonsense; it’s earthy and harshly percussive, the plectrum striking the instrument itself with the clack of a manual typewriter. Nonetheless, it can be dreamy, the shamisen trilling in mostly 4/4 time, from what I could tell, though I did notice one unaccented waltz time number.

Though performed in concert, this is a master’s private music, not for dancing or partying, but reflective listening.

The above band came encircling the Lp jacket--both sleeve and vinyl were in near perfect condition.

Attracted by the arresting image on the cover, I bought this on the way down to Cornwall last summer–yes, we literally stopped at a bootfair during the 10-hour drive!–from a guy who said it had been a gift from a Japanese friend a couple decades ago. I don’t think he played it once in the intervening years.

12 inchers Hip Hop

Jay-Z – “99 Problems” b/w “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” (Roc-a-Fella 9862393) (2003)

A few years ago, a friend from LA sent a CD-R of mashups including an (as it turns out) illicit DJ TimG remix of “99 Problems” which cleverly utilised Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” as the rhythm track–it was, indeed, a bangin’ mix and, having dismissed Jay-Z previously, my head was turned. When I eventually heard the popular released version on Radio 1 of this humorous catalogue of disasters faced by today’s African-American, not only were the swears very awkwardly and pointlessly erased (I mean, everyone still says the cuss words in their heads, right?), but the riddim was quite different. Yes, the version on this 50p charity shop twelve features a hard rock guitar, but it was Billy Squire’s (I think), not the funky Hendrix one and simply ain’t as good.

As mentioned previously, I don’t have much post-1999 hip hop, but this still gets played by me and the boys when anyone who might be easily offended is out of the house.

12 inchers Reggae

Dennis Brown/Prince Mohamed – “Money In My Pocket” b/w “Runnings Irie” (LV 5) (1979)


Man Doesn’t Know It, Feel It

(Canterbury, Kent) – Upper Hardres resident Garret Smalls listened to reggae music properly for the first time last night and has decided that he simply doesn’t enjoy the popular Jamaican music genre.

Eric Weiss, a reggae enthusiast friend of Smalls’, invited the twenty five-year-old graphic designer to his Canterbury flat to smoke some pot and listen to a variety of reggae styles including roots, DJ, early Dancehall and ragga.

While Weiss did a live mix on two decks of some of his current favourites, including 7″’s by Brigadier Jerry (“Every Man A Me Bredren”), Vivian Jackson (“Conquering Lion”), Big Youth (“Dubble Attack”), Luciano, Josie Wales & Charlie Chaplin (“Rebel With a Cause”), along with the first side of the Blood & Fire issue of the Congos’ The Heart of the Congos, Smalls happily pulled on a marijuana-packed ceramic water pipe with the caricature of a skull at its base.

“I thought I’d be more likely to ‘get’ reggae if I had a little buzz on,” Smalls explained, lighting Jah-Jah chalice to bun a lickle lamb’s bread.

Weiss was particularly hopeful about “converting” Smalls with the Crowned Prince of Reggae Dennis Brown’s “Money In My Pocket” 12″ single he recently picked up at a thrift store in Deal. “Yeah, the Dennis twelve is a massive Joe Gibbs [production] on the same riddim as ‘Mama Look’ by Big Youth,” said Weiss. “It shouldn’t scare any broad-minded listener, [as a] late 70s single…it’s pretty smooth, while at the same time it’s not too obvious, like ‘Jammin” or something.”

Despite this, Smalls remained unmoved, not calling out “Forward!”, “Big up m’ selecta!”, “Rewind!” or “Pu-u-u-ll Up!” at any point during the 8 minutes the record played, including the righteous Prince Mohamed “Cool Runnings” toast over the extended section or its electronically enhanced Mighty Two (Gibbs and Erroll Thompson) version on the b-side, “Runnings Irie”. A 1979 top 20 UK hit, the single is not particularly rare in Great Britain, its 50p price tag an accurate reflection of its market value.

On hearing Cocoa Tea’s absolutely banging “Burn Satan”, Smalls ventured that he was “a little uncomfortable with some of [reggae music’s] fundamentalist religious aspects”.

“Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in a small village in Kent, but I have a really hard time translating the patois and the accents are well thick,” Small announced following several more wicked chunes and bong hits, also reporting that, ultimately, “the whole thing [Reggae] was a bit too ‘samey’” for him.

“I guess I don’t know it, since I can’t feel it,” he added matter-of-factly.

Smalls did note, however, that the pot was really great and will continue to do more of that in the future while listening to the This Is Dubstep 2012 he downloaded the day before yesterday.