Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rain: Rain (De Rain)

Alzo and Udine : Rain ( De Rain)


Some "strum and be happy" pop from the NYC combo Alzo And Udine captures the sunny hippy vibe of the late 60's with a dash of latin soul and a guitar riff borrowed from Archie Bell and The Drells.
     Little is known about childhood friends Alzo Fronte (born Alfred Affrunti) and Udine ( whose birth name may have been Ali Noor Uddi) except that they originally recorded together as Keepers of the Light with Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry producing. With Udine sidetracked by drugs, Alzo continued recording as a solo artist with little commercial success.


 Eventually he and his wife opened up a store selling "new furniture made in the old ways". Village Chairs and Wares is still there in Port Jefferson, NY. The couple were featured in House Beautiful in the late 90's. In 2004, just as a Japanese reissue of Alzo & Udine led to the duo's rediscovery, Alzo died of a heart attack in a local restaurant. 

     I've got that Japanese reissue and all I can say is that sunny hippy vibe shines throughout the album. But it's a bit of a one trick pony. Nearly every song has the "Tighten Up" guitar riff.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rain: Let It Rain

Eric Clapton: Let it Rain
I may not be of the "Clapton is God" school - but I am not far off. I have gone out of my way/paid big bucks to see him in concert on 3 continents (not because I traveled for the purpose, but because we were in the same place at the same time) - most recently in Istanbul, Turkey, 2011 but also as far back as Blind Faith @ Seattle in '69.

This collection of videos of "Let It Rain" prove that even on his worst day, he is a guitarst "par excellence".
Let it Rain dates back to Clapton's immediate post-Cream days: from the first solo/eponymous album (1970)- more or less the Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett era (just after the Blind Faith days).
Of the set of YouTube videos I am linking to, the Hartford/Youtube version(above) strikes me as the best of the live video Youtube video versions available today, if not the best recording overall. It takes him a few seconds of the solo to get going, but when he hits the higher notes, it's pretty good stuff.

The piano (see minute ~ 1:05 and again ~ 2:09) is the "tinkling sound" of rain itself - in wonderful contrast to the sharper/cutting guitar. The video image may be on the dark side, but the sound is bright.
As for the lyrical value (and I am going back to our recent themes), "The Bard" it's not: (interestingly,  credited to Al Jarreau - remember him?):
Let it rain, let it rain
Let it rain, rain, rain...
Musically, however, would that all rain was this sweet.
Other Youtube versions:
Craig Twister Steward version
Montreaux '96 Phil Collins @ drums
This aint too shabby either!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rain: Save It For A Rainy Day

The Jayhawks: Save It For A Rainy Day

I never saw The Jayhawks with both Gary Louris and Mark Olson, although about a year after I saw the Louris-led version of the band at Town Hall in New York, I saw a Louris/Olson show at the Bowery Ballroom, and yeah, their voices do sound incredible together. But I also like the music that the band did after Olson left, and the album Rainy Day Music is probably my favorite with that lineup.

In early 2004 my family and I went to see The Jayhawks, with Josh Rouse opening, at Town Hall, a venerable, relatively small venue in New York where I also took my bar review course. So, enjoying myself in that space, where contracts, torts and other arcana were drilled into my brain, always seemed a little strange. But I digress. Somehow, we got great seats, very close to the stage, and it turned out to be a memorable concert. Josh Rouse was an excellent opener—he had recently released his 1972 album, which my family enjoyed maybe as much as we did Rainy Day Music.

The Jayhawks were also great. I hadn’t focused on how good a guitarist Louris is, and the band was tight and the songs were exactly what we expected. One thing I enjoy about going to concerts with my wife and kids is hearing them sing along, because they are actually talented, unlike yours truly, who is much, much better at writing about music than singing. Ask my daughter.

During the performance of “Save It For A Rainy Day,” after Louris sang:

Waiting for a breakthrough
What will you set your mind to?
We stood outside the Chinese restaurant
in the rain

someone in the crowd whooped loudly. I mean, incredibly loudly. And from that moment, I have never heard this song without actually whooping myself at that point in the song, out loud, or internally, if it wouldn’t be appropriate for a grown man to scream at that particular moment.

So, thanks, Mr. Jayhawks-concert-going-whooper for forever changing how I listen to this song. And, if by some strange coincidence, you are reading this, please let me know what there was about standing outside a Chinese restaurant in the rain that so excited you. Because for the past 9 years, I have wondered.

Sunday, April 14, 2013



Mary Coughlan: Ancient Rain

Another post and another strong female singer. I love Mary Coughlan, her voice and her vocal style oozing a sexuality that smacks of some distant promise, without being too obvious. Hell, no, scratch that, sometimes it is so overt and obvious that it leaps directly into your bed, inviting your ears to join her in a glorious union. Known perhaps more as an interpreter than a writer, and with a foot in each of the camps of folk, blues and jazz, Ancient rain is actually a song she wrote herself, appearing on an early EP, with an effortlessly mystical storyline, infused with a heady whisk(e)y whiff of alcohol.

I won’t labour the oft told stories of her multiple demons and awkward journey to diva-hood and back down again: that can all be found in the wonderful world of wiki. Neither will I even begin to pretend any truth in a mythology that equates artistry with suffering. She can just sing with a soul that belies more than mere vocalisation. And there is inevitably a feel that even if english may be the language, it is the very last thing she is actually singing in.

The backing is of course important, and I couldn’t find any credits to confirm, yet I would be astonished if it weren’t Richie Buckley on consummate saxophone. Check the wonderful solo out towards the end of the song. Seemingly the go to man for sax across Ireland, he has played with any and every hibernian artist worth their salt, from Van the man to Christy Moore, not excluding Sinead O’Connor and Sharon Shannon. He has a melodious keen to his playing that resonates, within my head at least, with the playing of some of the masters of the uillean  pipes  On the two occasions I have seen Mary Coughlan play live, at least a good part of the pleasure has been via his presence and playing, whether in the grandeur of Symphony Hall in Birmingham, as part of the Womans heart tour, or a backstreet bar in the same city, to an audience a tenth the size, if that.

Finally, as an aside to the theme and the post, however, and as a riposte to the Temptations, jeez, I wish it would stop raining, at least here in UK…….