Saturday, April 3, 2010

Morning/Retrospective: Sunday Morning

Margo Guryan: Sunday Morning


Margo Guryan's Sunday Morning - a pleasant sixties pop-fluff track from 1968's Take A Picture, which easily predates barely postdates the Velvet Underground track of the same name - was the very first song posted at Star Maker Machine, two years ago to the Sunday. It was brought to us by our beloved founder, Paul, who described Guryan both aptly and tersely, calling her "a 1960's style Lilly Allen (but a bit more refined)."

This coming week, in honor of our second birthday, we'll be featuring similar looks back at our current contributors' favorite moments. I've got plenty of favorites to offer, myself - beloved themes, favorite posts, songs that changed my life, and more - but I just couldn't resist calling back to our very first post as the perfect kick-off, like sticking a birthing room picture on the first page of the baby book.

Happy Birthday, Star Maker Machine. May you continue to serve as a haven for all of us.

Morning: Chelsea Morning

Joni Mitchell: Chelsea Morning


"Chelsea Morning" is one of my favorite early Joni Mitchell songs - it appears on her 1969 album Clouds...

From Wikipedia:

The song was inspired by Mitchell's room in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. The inspiration for the first verse comes partly from the distinct décor of her apartment. While in Philadelphia, Mitchell and friends had made a mobile from shards of colored glass they had found in the street and wire coat hangers, which filtered the light coming into her room through the window and created the "rainbow on the wall". During coffeehouse performances of this song in the late 1960s, Mitchell explained that the famous stained glass was rescued from the salvaged windows of a demolished home for unwed mothers.

Although she is speaking to a lover, I think ultimately this is Joni's love song to the experience of living in the city - as the verses unfold, her description of the sights, sounds and smells is rich and vibrant and delicious:

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses Oh, won't you stay, we'll put on the day, and we'll talk in present tenses

Morning: Through the Week Edition

Sometimes a week just gets away from you. Here it is Saturday, and I haven't had a chance to post anything yet. As I try to get out the door for a family gathering, I'll keep the yakking to a minimum and celebrate a week's worth of mornings.

The Move: Mist On a Monday Morning


We'll start on Monday, with a dark bit of British psychedelia from The Move.

Badfinger: Sweet Tuesday Morning


On to Tuesday, with a somber-sounding songs with surprisingly upbeat lyrics from Badfinger.

Simon and Garfunkel: Wednesday Morning, 3AM


A song that would have been appropriate for last week's theme, too.

The Roland Kirk Quartet: April Morning


OK, here's where my conceit falls apart. I could not find a Thursday morning song, so I'll substitute "April Morning", since we're now in April, and the first of the month was a Thursday. Plus, all that introspective folkie stuff earlier in the week was getting a little old.

Chris Hickey: Friday Morn'


Some sad-but-resilient singer-songwriter Americana to finish out the work week.

Eels: Saturday Morning


It's the weekend! Time to rock out with the Eels.

The Velvet Underground: Sunday Morning


There are several good Sunday morning songs, but this is one of my favorites.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Morning: Morning Dew

"Take me for a walk in the morning dew my honey, take me for a walk in the morning sun my love... You can´t go walking in the morning dew today, you can´t go walking in the morning sun today...." Bonnie Dobson´s Morning Dew has long been a favorite of mine. Her apocalyptic post-nuclear folksong from 1962 has been covered many times, most notably by Fred Neil and by Tim Rose, who falsely claimed a writing credit while he was at it.

But nothing beats the treatment German noisemeisters Einstürzende Neubauten gave it in 1987. Listening to their intense interpretation, you can almost picture that desolate, barren landscape after the smoke of the big blast has finally lifted... Berliner Blixa Bargeld, also a valued part of Nick Cave´s Bad Seeds at the time, plays his guitar like it´s a scythe and whispers Dobson´s tale of doom as if his life depended on it. "What they were saying all these years is true, ´cause there´s no more morning dew..."

Morning: February Morning Drive

David Francey: February Morning Drive


I would like to thank Kat of Keep the Coffee Coming for introducing me to the wonderful music of David Francey. I’m not including a link to Kat, because, as I write this, her blog is off line. If anyone has more information about this, please leave it in the comments. Thank you.

David Francey grew up to age 12 in Scotland. At that point, he and his family relocated to Canada. The Francey family loved going for Sunday drives and exploring their new country, and Francey continued these explorations as an adult. February Morning Drive reflects this. Each verse is a little painting, setting a different scene encountered on one of these rides.

The purchase link above is for Amazon’s Canadian site. The album is also listed on the US site, but at collectible prices. Of course, the price at the link I have provided is in Canadian dollars.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Morning: Hills of Morning

Bruce Cockburn: Hills of Morning


I first heard of Bruce Cockburn in 1979, when I read a review of Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws in Rolling Stone. I was intrigued, but I didn’t get the album at the time. I got his next one, Steeling Fire. I believe Dragon’s Jaws was the first Cockburn album to become available in the United States, and Stealing Fire marked his breakthrough with American audiences. What took us so long?

Hills of Morning comes from Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, and is the closest thing to a title track. What is the song about? By 1986, even Cockburn couldn’t completely remember. Here is what he said at that time:

Phil Catalfo: What I want to get to here, is how some of that is reflected in some of your songs in a way that is really quite exhilarating, I think, to the listener who may be Christian or not. One song in particular I'm thinking of is from an album called Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws. The song is called "Hills of Morning" and that song has always fascinated me and I wish you'd tell us something about it, how, where that song came from. Perhaps we could listen to it in a moment.

BC: Yeah, I'll keep it short because I can't remember very much about where it came from, at this point, it's a while back. Generally that whole album reflects probably the closest I've been able to come to expressing that particular kind of spirituality. The album was influenced partly by the fact that during the period that songs were being written I read all of the works of Charles Williams, who is an English writer with a particularly pronounced ability to describe spiritual things in very vivid terms. Most of his books are novels. They're sort of mystery novels almost, that deal with different elements of the occult, but bringing it around to a Christian point of view. And his own particular experience seems very strange. There's a sense of depth of being in those novels that is really both disturbing and thrilling at the same time. Anyway, that kind of pervaded the writing of the songs because the books were so much in my head at the time. But it's also the ... it was my own experience too that it was ... you know part of being a Christian is kinda getting to know Jesus. I mean you hear, again the TV guys are very quick to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus, and so on. It's a little unclear exactly what they mean by that. My own experience was that I felt that I was having a ...

Phil Catalfo: A personal relationship?

BC: A personal relationship, yeah, with a kind of ineffable being who was certainly no one other than Christ, who would occasionally put thoughts into my mind, and so on, you know, that were very clear, although the voice was a very quiet one and you had to listen for it. But it also sort of, after a while it got familiar enough, and I'd also without wanting to ... without getting into sort of being irreverent ... I kinda felt that that familiarity was something that should be encouraged, and talked about, in a way. So, you know, you hear in this song "a bunch of us were busy waiting" ... I sort of imagined myself being a street person in first century Jerusalem. And, here we are we're all sitting around in the street ...

Phil Catalfo: Pitching pennies ...

BC: In effect. Rolling bones, or whatever they did. That sort of led to the development of this song.

- from Bruce Cockburn interviewed by Phil Catalfo, "Music That Matters" programme, New Dimensions Radio, San Francisco, California,15 July 1986.

Before I found this quote, I found myself thinking of the Fool in the Tarot deck. The fool is open to new experiences, as he sets off heedlessly into the world. Is he foolish or wise? For me, it fits with this song.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Morning: Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise

Art Pepper (´25-´82) was the west coast king of the alto saxophone. His career consisted of many highs. Some of these were related to his art, the others to heroin. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of his extremely candid autobiography Straight Life for all the sordid details. A great read, it puts the excesses of many a rocker to shame.

Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise was originally a song from a twenties operetta. Pepper reworked it to fit his needs, assisted by Miles Davis Band heavyweights Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, plus Conte Candoli on trumpet. You can find it on Gettin´ Together!, the follow-up to his undisputed masterpiece Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section.

Morning: Morning Comes Around

Lou Rawls: Morning Comes Around


Last week's theme was a tricky one - despite racking my brain for days I couldn't think of a single song I wanted to post. This week however, I knew which song I'd pick the second I was told of the theme.

Morning Comes Around is the final track on the soundtrack album for the 1973 film The Soul of Nigger Charley, the second in a trilogy of blaxploitation westerns about two escaped slaves played by Fred Williamson and D'Urville Martin.

The score was composed by Frank Sinatra's arranger Don Costa, with Lou Rawls contributing vocals on two cuts: the funky Sometime Day and this gorgeous wonder of a song. Almost half of its length consists of a slow-burning intro of strings, word-less vocals, harps and something which I'm pretty sure is a clarinet. Feel free to correct me.

Just when you start wondering if the song is ever going to take off, Rawls shows up with that mellifluous timbre of his and he soon proceeds to completely school any snotty brat who ever thought they could sing. By the time the rousing climax subsides you realise you've just heard one of the most wonderful little songs ever recorded.

They simply don't make music like this anymore.