Billy Preston: Nothing From Nothing
Man, I love me some Billy Preston, so it was an utter shock to discover that not a single one of us has posted his work here at the Star Maker Saloon before today. The keyboard player's "Fifth Beatle" credentials are as strong as any for a reason, and it's here in spades in the perfect Saturday night jam.
So let's get it on, already: check out and turn up the frenetic powerhouse punch of that barrelhouse piano, the miles of horns, the effortless sexuality of that eminently recognizable tenor voice. Sure, you've heard it before - the song was featured prominently in both Elf and Be Kind Rewind, among other fine films - but I'll bet you a buck and a half you just can't help but throw your hands up and rejoice at a world where such utter jubilation can be brought by wire into your very own home.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
One of the many things I love about P-Funk mastermind George Clinton is his way with a song title. Though he's no Sufjan Stevens, he can get pretty wordy, which increases the chances of hitting a doublespeak candidate.
Here are three then, one each from the first three Funkadelic albums (my favorite part of the entire P-Funk discography, where the psychedelic/Hendrix influence was still pretty strong):
Funkadelic: I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody's Got a Thing
"I Got a Thing" starts us off with a fairly typical hippie sentiment: We're all different, but let's all just get along.
Funkadelic: Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow
"Free Your Mind" seems like it should be a plea to just let loose and have fun, but the music takes on a sinister feel, which makes you think twice about surrendering to the groove.
Funkadelic: You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks
"You and Your Folks" is basically a rewrite of "I Got a Thing", but it's a much better song. It also tempers the idealism with a bit of reality: "The rich got a big piece of this and that/The poor got a big piece of roaches and rats".
Of course, dissecting Funkadelic lyrics misses the point somewhat, so step away from your computer and shake that thang!
Friday, March 4, 2011
Bruce Cockburn: When It‘s Gone, It‘s Gone
When I have posted songs by Bruce Cockburn before, I have tended to concentrate on his words. The man can be passionate and poetic, often in the same song. And Cockburn is an eloquent spokesman for the oppressed, as well as one of the best writers of songs of the spirit that I know of. Left out of those discussions has been the fact that Cockburn is also a very fine guitar player. Since When It’s Gone, It’s Gone is an instrumental, Cockburn’s prowess on the guitar is impossible to miss here. Actually, those same qualities of passion, poetry, and eloquence are found here as well. Cockburn is joined here by Edgar Meyer on bass, Mark O’Connor on violin, and Booker T Jones on organ. Each of these gentlemen is a master of his instrument, and all are much in demand as session players as a result. In such distinguished company, Cockburn more than holds his own. Liner note freaks will also appreciate knowing that this one was produced by T-Bone Burnett.
Talk Talk: Talk Talk
Talk Talk: Time It's Time
There's so much doublespeak in this post that I'll have you seeing double!
Here is a pair of songs by the dual-named 80s synthpop group, Talk Talk. The first song is also called Talk Talk, which slots this band with the likes of Bad Company and Big Country – groups synonymously named with their first big hit. Talk Talk started out mining the same pop vein as that other dual-named 80s synthpop group Duran Duran, but by their third album, from which Time It's Time is taken, they've developed a complex, moody, almost oblique style, as if they're trying to channel Carl Orff with that choral stuff at the end.
Plus they have some of the coolest album artwork ever. What's not to like?
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Garland Jeffreys: Jump Jump
The late ’70s and early ’80s were a great time for name-dropping in song. Tim Curry did it in the marvellous I Do The Rock, and B.A. Robertson in the 1979 hit Bang Bang. In this 1981 song, Garland Jeffreys goes walkabouts in Paris, referring to Victor Hugo (whose novel Les Miserables, not yet a musical, he’s presently not in a mood for), Rimbaud, van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne as he checks out the Venus de Milo and passes Notre Dame cathedral, inviting us to “jump jump” to all of these as a means of making the “great escape” from the mundanities of daily routine. Jeffreys dedicated the song to his friend John Lennon, a former art student who had been murdered a few months before the album was released.
The song is stuck away at the end of the superior side 2 of Jeffrey’s Escape Artist album, but nonetheless provides the inspiration for the title of the LP, which came with a four-track EP. Among the notable musicians guesting on the album are the E-Street Band’s Roy Bittan on piano and the late Danny Federici on keyboards, and their influence is reflected in the sound of the rock songs (less so, obviously, than they’d be on the reggae numbers). Others who appeared on the Bob Clearmountain-produced album include Lou Reed, the brass-playing Brecker brothers, Nona Hendryx and Linton Kwesi Johnson. One might think that Elvis Costello also chipped in, but it’s just Garland sounding like old Declan on this fine set.
Talking Heads: Seen and Not Seen
Doublespeak - the practice of using ambiguous language… in a deliberate attempt to disguise the truth
That is the definition from Dictionary.com. Our theme is not bound by it, and it probably should not be. But the word doublespeak seems relevant to the song Seen and Not Seen. The title suggests a pair of opposites which are present at the same time. That completely fits David Byrne’s meditation on personal appearance and reality. The song ends with a wonderful punch line, so listen for that.
Monday, February 28, 2011
The Mamas & The Papas: Monday, Monday
Mondays stink, this classic hit from 1965 does not.
In fact, Mondays stink so much that I am in a rush to get to work on time and can't write more, but I felt if I was going to post this song this week, it needed to be today, for obvious reasons.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Little Feat: Cold, Cold, Cold
Little Feat’s Cold, Cold, Cold is a bluesy howl from the gut. It is also a song that may have been released before it was ready. The original version was on the 1972 album Sailin’ Shoes. Producer Ted Templeman may be the one who decided how it should be recorded. The song, in this incarnation, sounds like it was recorded inside a cave, and the distortion is not helpful. The performance is good, but Feat could do better, and it doesn’t quite hit it. Evidently, the band agreed. Two years later, they rerecorded the song in a medley with Triple Face Boogie for their album Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. This version is much better. But I have chosen a third version. This one is only available on a digital-only expanded edition of their live album Waiting For Columbus. The addition of the horn section tips this one over into the category of one of Little Feat’s finest songs.
War: City, Country, City
If this is doublespeak week, then it seems logical that we'd have two transition songs, right? Not that I really meant to track down another organ-heavy tune, but this one just stood out for me when I listened to it again. I'm a big fan of War, a 70's funk/jazz band from L.A. (well, except for the inexplicable Spill the Wine, but I fault Eric Burdon more for that one). This 13-minute instrumental song is from what many believe is their finest album, 1972's The World is a Ghetto. It features Lonnie Jordan on the organ in what can be described as a deliciously rhythmic blend of Latin jazz and funk.
Al Green: Glory Glory
Organist and songwriter Charles Hodges isn't necessarily a household name, but his work on the higher end of the Hammond keyboard is quite easy to pick out of a lineup, once you know what to listen for - or to look for on a label. In the same way that Booker T. was the in-house organist for Stax, the distinctive keywork of Charles Hodges, one of three brothers who comprised the core of the Hi Records Rhythm Section [featured above, with Charles standing in the center], can be heard on almost every record from the label during the sixties and seventies, including Ann Peebles' seminal I Can't Stand The Rain, and on many of Al Green's biggest hits, where he lends subtle support to the honey-voiced soul singer.
Our transition song this week isn't famous - it's a true deep cut from Full of Fire, in which the now-Reverend Green began to leave behind his tendency towards emotionally oozing love songs, choosing instead to explore his blossoming religious nature with a record heavy on the gospel soul. But it takes us quite deftly from last week's instrumental focus to a new thematic challenge, wherein we post songs which use the same word twice in their title.