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Old 10-01-2011, 09:11 AM   #321 (permalink)
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With the onset of a new month I thought it might be time to check out some more of the best in Irish music. Not rock by any means --- but then, I never said all the albums featured in “The Very Best of Irish” would be! --- it's an essential album indeed, by one of Ireland's favourite and best-loved sons, the inimitable Christy Moore.

Ordinary man --- Christy Moore --- 1985 (Walker)


Christy has long been acknowledged as one of the best ever songwriters and musicians the Irish folk scene has ever produced, and his output ranges from out-and-out traditional, folk and some blues influences to rockier material and some gorgeous ballads, including the superlative Jimmy McCarthy song, “Ride on”. Some of his songs are satirical, some sharply so. His song “Lisdoonvarna”, written about the Irish music festival that takes place there annually, is just good fun, as is “Don't forget your shovel”, but he can write some very cutting stuff too. This album opens with “Sweet music roll on”, a lovely little trad-type ballad on acoustic guitar with oileann pipes backing. “Delerium tremens” is a hilarious but very serious little ditty, ostensibly about the “D.T's”, the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol addition, but features many references to Irish polticians, religion and other Irish figures too. Most of the lyric will probably be incomprehensible to anyone not Irish, but it's a great little song, carried on acoustic guitar and bodhran.

Christy tends to sing a lot of his material almost sotto voce, in a manner somewhat similar to John Martyn: he seldom raises his voice and you often have to strain to hear him, but his singing is the better for this. The standout track on the album breaks this habit, as Christy snarls out the title track, a sharp indictment of the plight of the workingman, when he snaps ”The owner says he's sad/ To see things have gone so bad/ But the captains of industry/ Won't let him loose/ He still drives a car/ Smokes a big cigar/ He still takes his family on a cruise!” It's a mid-paced ballad, with great guitar and some nice steel pedal guitar too, tom-toms keeping the percussion beat.

Most of the album is simple acoustic guitar with minimal percussion, some banjo and the odd keyboard flourish, the oileann pipes adding some colour as well as harmonica and maybe fiddles, hard to say and I have no instrumentation listing. But it's very, very Irish and very, very Christy. “The reel in the flickering light” opens on mournful keys and banjo or mandolin, features some lovely piano too, then Christy's guitar takes over and he returns to the normal way of singing for him, which is almost that of a man practicing alone in a room. This is part of Christy's charm: there are no airs or graces about the man. He plays on stage as he would at home alone, or on his records, and he's as honest and unassuming a man as you're ever likely to meet.

Another ballad then in “The Diamandtina drover”, and there's another instrument to add in: the accordion. Not normally one of my favourites, but it works very well here. “Blantyre explosion” opens with sounds of rain and thunder, and settles into another laidback ballad about a mining disaster in Scotland. “Hard cases” is another little jaunty tune, in something the style of “Delerium tremens” but a little slower, and a lot of accordion, while “Continental ceili” (pronounced “kay-lee”) recalls his satirical “Don't forget your shovel”, another jaunty, pleasant little ditty just celebrating the Irish traditional way of life (a ceili is an Irish dance with traditional music), and “St. Brendan's voyage” depicts the journey of the Irish Saint Brendan the Navigator with a typical Christy Moore slant as he asks [i]”Is it right or left/ For Gibraltar?/ What tack do I take/ For Mizzenhead/ I'd love to settle down/ Near Bantry Harbour/ Saint Brendan to his albatross/ He said.” Great stuff!

The album was supposed to have included a song written by Christy commemorating the forty-eight young people killed in one of Ireland's worst accidents, the fire at the Stardust nightclub in 1981, but legal complications prevented him from adding it, and so instead, where “They never came home” should have been, we have “Another song is born”, which itself alludes to why songs are written, a direct attack at the powers that stopped him releasing “They never came home”, which was sharply critical of the Irish government for their treatment of the disaster and its aftermath, as well as the Butterleys, the owners of the nightclub, who themselves had strong ties to the party in power, Fianna Fail.

The album closes on the lovely “Quiet desperation”, featuring ex-Clannad member and solo artist Enya on backing vocals and keyboards. It's another lonely ballad, fragile and beautiful, perfectly crafted and delivered with gorgeous mandolin accompaniment from Donal Lunny, and it brings down the curtain on a fine album by a national Irish treasure.

TRACKLISTING

1. Sweet music roll on
2. Delerium tremens
3. Ordinary man
4. Matty
5. The reel in the flickering light
6. The Diamondtina drover
7. Blantrye explosion
8. Hard cases
9. Continental ceili
10. St. Brendan's voyage
11. Another song is born
12. Quiet desperation

Suggested further listening: “Ride on”, “Voyage”, “H Block”, “The time has come”, “Smoke and strong whiskey”, “Unfinished revolution”, “Traveller”
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Old 10-01-2011, 10:16 AM   #322 (permalink)
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Something of a companion section to my recent feature “... As heard on TV”, this will feature my favourite music from film soundtracks. So, lights down, quiet please, the movie is about to begin...

Kick off with a classic, opening titles from the original “Star Wars”.


And from the polished, digital Star Wars soundtrack, right back to 1968 we go for a scratchy, vinyl recording of the theme to one of my favourite ever movies, “The odd couple”, starring Walter Matthau and the late Jack Lemmon. Class!


Oooh, don't you feel a big man with that cannon in your pocket, Inspector? The one, the only, Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”. Here's the seventies-heavy theme.


One of the greatest film composers of all time, Maurice Jarre with “Lara's theme” from the film “Doctor Zhivago”.


And we couldn't leave out the haunting theme from “The Godfather”.


A little (!) more up to date now for the theme from one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever (with two of the worst ever sequels!), “The Matrix”, of course.

The great Michael Nymen with the theme from the film, “The piano” (which I didn't see...)


Something from “The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers”, perhaps?


Let's hear it for the webslinger!


And we'll finish with a timeless classic. Bogey and Bergman, what else but “Casablanca”?


That's it. Please remember to take your rubbish with you when you leave. Please wait until the houselights come back on --- I said PLEASE WAIT... oh, never mind.
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Old 10-01-2011, 04:09 PM   #323 (permalink)
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Something a little different on the ol' Tunnel of Love this time: this entire edition is dedicated to nonsubmissivewife, who I know loves soul music and has accused me of not playing enough --- any, in fact, which is true. So to make up for that, every selection here is a soul classic. Enjoy!

And what better way to start than with the man whose very name is not only synonymous with soul, but with “lurve” too? Yeah, it's that man-mountain of cool, the guy with a voice deeper than the Mariana Trench, Mister Barry White!


Oooh yeah! If you ain't in the mood for love after that, you're never gonna be! Keeping it cool and laid-back with another icon of the smooth, sexy soul sound, it's Luther Vandross, with “A house is not a home”.


Oh, she'd kill me if I didn't let the ladies do their thang, so here is Patti Labelle with “If you asked me to”.


And how could we leave out Oleta Adams?


A true all-time classic from the Commodores, their number one which kickstarted Lionel Ritchie's career, this is of course “Three times a lady”.


Another true icon of soul, here's Smokey Robinson with “Being with you”.


Randy Crawford, with a lovely version of the truly stunning “Rainy night in Georgia”.


A great, slightly more recent hit from Atlantic Starr, this is “Always”.


Back to the guys now, as we approach the end. Here's another master of the soulful smoothie, George Benson, with “In your eyes.”


And let's finish with a true classic, the Stylistics with “You make me feel brand new”.


Hope you're feeling all nice and relaxed and chilled out after that. Next time, the Tunnel of Love will revert to its usual format. Hope you enjoyed that, nsw, and that it temporarily sates your desire for soul music, here in the pages of my journal. Later...
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Old 10-02-2011, 07:52 AM   #324 (permalink)
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Bad attitude --- Meat Loaf --- 1984 (Arista)


After the phenomenal success of “Bat out of Hell” and the very successful followup, “Dead ringer”, Meat Loaf fell out with producer, songwriter and collaborator Jim Steinman, and released two albums without him, before they kissed and made up for 1993's “Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell”. The first was the pretty abysmal “Midnight at the lost and found”, which is more or less universally acknowledged to be Meat Loaf's worst and most disappointing album. “Bad attitude”, by comparison, is a lot better, but it's still no “Bat out of Hell”. Still, for an album on which Meat Loaf was, as it were, flying solo, this time he did a much better job, and the album is very close to his original sound.

Although lacking any of the longer compositions that characterised both “Bat out of Hell” and “Dead ringer”, and no spoken parts or tracks, this is an album full of snappy, catchy, chartworthy rock and pop songs, and to be fair, there's not a bad one in there. Two of the songs are Steinman-penned, but the rest are mainly written by the songwriting partnership of Sarah Durkee and Paul Jacobs, the latter of whom also plays piano and keys on the album.

It starts with the title track, and the signature motorbike sound to get a decent rocker going, with Meat in fine vocal form. Bob Kulick adds a new dimension with his ferocious guitar playing, and additional vocals by Roger Daltrey help this song stand out, and it's a great opener. Taking as its theme the old teenage rebel idea, the song declares ”Every hero was once/ Every villain was once/ Just a boy with a bad attitude.” The first and most successful single from the album is next, “Modern girl” beginning on a piano ballad melody, which then kicks into a high-powered dramatic rock song so typical of Meat Loaf. On this song Meat duets with Clare Torry, who we've heard before on Floyd's classic “Dark side of the moon” (she's that amazing voice on “The Great Gig in the Sky”), and there's great rollicking piano and good heavy guitar, with great backing vocals and a very infectious melody. Two songs down, and no complaints so far!

“Nowhere fast” is one of the two songs contributed to the album by Jim Steinman, and it's a rocking, thundering hurtler, with typical Steinman lyrics involving motorbikes, cars, girls, roads and freedom. It features some very electonica-type drum machines and programming, which somehow don't seem at odds with the album but fit in very snugly alongside the guitar and keyboard sound. For a Steinman song it's remarkably simple: no fitting in forty words per line as is his usual habit, and this works in the song's favour, making it very accessible and very memorable.

His other song on the album actually comes from his own album “Bad for good”, the exquisite “Surf's up”, with a very “For crying out loud” motif --- this one has as many words squeezed into each sentence as possible! But it's a powerful, emotional song, backed by piano and some pretty powerful guitar, though here it's Meat Loaf's bombastic voice that carries the song. Ive heard Steinman's version, and it's damn good, but here Meat just knocks it, as they say, out of the park. He really gives it everything he has, and you can almost imagine the sweat dripping down his ample frame as he belts out the vocals, growling ”My body is burning/ Like a naked wire/ I wanna turn on the juice/ I wanna fall in the fire/ I'm gonna drown in the ocean/ In a bottomless sea/ I'm gonna give to you/ What I hope you'll be givin' to me.” Hell, you feel exhausted just listening to the guy!

“Piece of the action” starts (and ends) like a ballad, but the song is a powerful rocker, decribing the hopes and dreams of a man who wants to rise above his humdrum life and get out there, into the big wide world. Great piano on the intro and Meat Loaf at his gentle best before he ramps it up and roars his frustration. “Jump the gun” is another fast rocker, with additional “gunshot” sounds (!), with a beat sort of in the mould of “Dead ringer for love”. A common thread running through this album seems to be the idea of starting a song off slow, like a ballad, then speeding it up, and this happens again with “Cheatin' in your dreams”, one of two songs penned by John Parr (he of “St. Elmo's Fire” fame). This he writes himself, while the next one up is co-written. “Cheatin'” has a really nice boogie rhythm, sort of mid-paced, the slowest, other than “Surf's up”, on the album so far. Very soul/motown backing vocals.

Parr's other song, “Don't leave your mark on me”, starts with slow, spacey synth and an almost Doors-like keyboard intro, but soon reveals itself to be another fast one, with a cantering beat and some great keyboards, but the best has been held back to close the album, as “Sailor to a siren” gets going. Opening with a Fairlight-programmed choral vocal which pretty much runs through the song, it kicks in and gets faster, with a superb guitar solo by Kulick in the middle.

If nothing else, I believe “Bad attitude” proved that Meat Loaf was not just “the guy who sang Jim Steinman songs”, and that he could survive without his partner in crime. This is a superb album, and the fact that he (generally) did it all on his own is tribute to Meat Loaf's expertise and talent. Okay, so it's no “Bat out of Hell”, but it's no “Midnight at the lost and found” either!

TRACKLISTING

1. Bad attitude
2. Modern girl
3. Nowhere fast
4. Surf's up
5. Piece of the action
6. Jump the gun
7. Cheatin' in your dreams
8. Don't leave your mark on me
9. Sailor to a siren

Suggested further listening: "Bat out of Hell", "Dead ringer", "Back into Hell: Bat out of Hell II", "The minster is loose: Bat out of Hell III", "Welcome to the neighbourhood"
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Old 10-02-2011, 08:10 AM   #325 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Sunday, October 2 2011
Bit of electronica today for a change. Air are a band I have featured once before, when reviewing their album “The Virgin Suicides OST”, but this is from their debut album, released all the way back in 1998, called “Moon safari”.

Kelly watch the stars! --- Air --- from "Moon Safari" on Virgin
I haven't heard too much of Air's output, but this seems to be a fairly typical electronica song, with lots of synth and keyboard, weird whooshy sounds, drum machines and liberal use of vocoder to repeat the one and only line of lyric, the title. Not half bad. The synth-bass sort of reminds me of Human League's smash “Don't you want me”. Yeah, that's how much I know about electronic pop music!

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Old 10-02-2011, 08:14 AM   #326 (permalink)
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Somewhat in keeping with our special soul version of the Tunnel of Love, the worm keeps it smooth with a song which is generally agreed to be the first real disco song, George McCrae with “Rock your baby”.
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Old 10-02-2011, 06:24 PM   #327 (permalink)
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Dig out those ridiculously high platforms, scour the attic for the wingtip collar shirts and get ready to BOOGIE! (Or, more likely, rock!) All this coming week is 70s week on Trollheart's journal. I'll be reviewing albums from the seventies, the Daily Earworm will be firmly trapped in the seventh decade, and any other sections that can be related to the 70s will be.

Obviously, Random Track of the Day can't be just seventies tracks, as it's totally random and I've no control over what year it pulls out, but everything else I can manage to root in the seventies will be.

The seventies were a good time for me. Born in the early sixties, I was just getting into music around that time, and much of the 70s music forms a lot of the soundtrack of my life, so quite a few memories coming up. See ya there!
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Old 10-03-2011, 10:22 AM   #328 (permalink)
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Okay, let's get this seventies party started! The worm presents one of the classic songs of the late 70s, John Paul Young with his only hit, from 1977, this is “Love is in the air”.
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Old 10-03-2011, 10:31 AM   #329 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Monday, October 3 2011
Well, it would have been nice if the random-o-meter had managed to pick out a seventies track, but that would have been stretching it a bit, no? As it happens, it's gone for a track from Suzanne Vega's excellent “Solitude standing”, a great little track called “In the eye”.

In the eye --- Suzanne Vega --- from "Solitude standing" on A&M


A tough and brave little song, where Suzanne warns her assailant that even if he kills her, she's still going to look him in the eye, and stay in his memory. A real “go ahead and try if you're hard enough” sort of idea, with a fastish, rocky tune behind it. One of many different styles and themes on this super album: it's more than just “Tom's diner”, you know!
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:39 AM   #330 (permalink)
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This journal is HUGE. Keep up the good work dude
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