Saturday, August 31, 2019

Slide: Slide Away

purchase [ other stuff from Muzai Records ] (The label for Sunken Seas)

The <slide> theme was deliberately left nebulous enough to allow for slide guitar entries or some pedal steel, and if you happen to follow my personal tastes, you'll know that my favorite musicians include masters of that style: Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George.

As I often do, I scratched out a couple of starting lines heading down that path with the intention of letting the idea stew for a couple of days before settling on one of the slide masters. As we are now at the end of the <Slide> theme calendar, it looks like that one will have to wait for our traditional November <Leftovers> theme because (Baby, Baby, Baby ....) I'm out of time.

Yet, as that idea sat on the desktop, I also began work on a song or two with <Slide> in the title. This would have been last week, some time before the Video Music Awards earlier this week. Pure coincidence, since I had no way of knowing the song list for this week's Video Music Awards.

Bono, Oasis, The Verve, Noel Gallagher ... they've all got songs named <Slide Away>. Bono doing the vocals on a Michael Hutchence composition. And Oasis doing the Noel Gallagher song of the same name. And then Miley Cyrus this past week. And then, as a last minute bonus, yet another Slide Away from a group on Muzai Records called Sunken Seas. There's probably more out there.
Not knowing much of anything about any of these, I guessed that they were likely variations/covers of someone's original.

I can't think of too many other song titles of exactly the same name that are distinctly different songs. At the same time, you could surmise that the conceit behind the song name is obvious enough that any could hit on the title for an original: I guess it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise ... how often does love end in one party slip/sliding off down a different path? Slide Away is a quite natural occurrence - whether as an act IRL or as a title for a creative work. The song stories are all "love songs" in one form or another. The Gallagher/Oasis and the Verve's are more centered on sliding away together; Cyrus' and Hutchence's are more about being away.

The Verve:




Sunken Seas:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Slide: Mud Slide Slim

purchase [Mud Slide Slim]

What to make of James Taylor's musical career?
Myself - having spent a number of formative years in North Carolina ... I kind of embraced his early career. I loved his simple, but crisp, guitar picking: his plaintive vocals and somewhat mournful messages. Lots of loss and sadness.

And then, at what appeared to be a high point in a rising career, comes the Carly Simon story (that - while potentially a win-win affair - didn't seem to bring either career any benefits)

Now, I don't mean to say he has become irrelevant - his music from the 70s (Sweet Baby James, Mud Slide Slim) guarantee him a top spot in the history of rock/pop, but since then, he had slid (slided?) down the list of important musical influences - and you wouldn't have thought he would become so irrelevant if you were living back in 1972 or so. Mud Slide Slim makes for "pleasant listening",but  it nowhere near carries  the  value of Sweet Baby James.

Said Rolling Stone at this point in his career:
"Something has gone askew. James’ career is the lie to his art, for, if he is by nature an introspective reclusive, the effect of his career is the opposite. The discrepancy which makes James’ enormous success grotesque to the outsider is exactly what makes it personally threatening to him. So James himself perpetuates his problems, by releasing a best-selling record which aims at their solution."

The  Rolling Stone review of the album back in '71 pretty muchly panned Taylor's effort as no follow-up to the previous.

OK. Heard. How's about this?
Marianne Faithful:


Sunday, August 25, 2019


Another little known artist, I know, as I near singlehandedly drive down the ratings of this once mighty blog, but this is a fella you really should be aware of. Or have been aware of, as he is now deceased, having died actually a few years back, in 2012. But, even if he were only ever world famous in Dundee, his rich legacy is still available. Oh, and why this particular song? Look sideways to the picture, the slide. Well, I grew up thinking of the children's playground as the swings and slides, as, give or take a roundabout or a see-saw, that's what they were. This song celebrates, or not, the quaintly scottish presbyterian practice of chaining access to such fripperies on the Lord's day, when god fearing kids should be engaged in matters strictly avoidant of fun. Whilst I don't know whether the practice is still widespread, I would not be at all surprised if it is still mandatory in Stornoway, capital of the Western Isles, or Outer Hebrides. Until recently there were no access to Sunday newspapers on the day they were published, ferries and flights to the island being cried down by The Lord's Day Observance Society. Shops, bars and restaurants were also all closed, the loophole being "except for travellers", necessitating the great and good to have to make wee journeys of a sunday...... (For what it is worth and, apropos of nothing, this is the liberal community from whence the mother of the current  POTUS came. And mine.)

Dundee is on the other side of the country, and on the mainland, in the kingdom of Fife, wedged in between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Famous as a shipping port, the centre of the once mighty Jute industry, and more recently of the D.C. Thomson newspaper publishing empire, still sending out copy to expats and their descendants worldwide. (What do you mean, you haven't heard of Oor Wullie or the Broons?) Marra started his career, like many scots, in London, his first gig being with fellow countryman, Dougie MacLean, ahead of some minor acclaim in the band, Skeets Boliver . However, the explosion of punk , the mid 70s, was no time for this amalgam of styles, let alone the chorus of the song below, euphemistically retitled for press releases as 'streethouse' door, so back to Dundee he went.

Back home, alongside his burgeoning solo career as an acerbic singer-songwriter, often at the piano, he worked extensively in theatre projects, both acting and as musical director. His records, and there were 7 between 1980 and 2002, were well-received by the critics, which somehow always seems to equivalently equate with poor sales and, at best, a cult status. His style of writing embraced any number of styles, usually that most applicable to the song, often a pithy observation around some tale culled from the news or his personal experience. He often wrote about about artists, both musical and otherwise. Here are 2 examples, the first relating to a scarcely believable true story, about when Frida Kahlo visited Dundee. A live performance, this demonstrates his strength in a live setting, but apologies if you need subbies.

This next was sparked into fruition by the doyen of english folk singing, Martin Carthy, on the occasion of his being awarded an MBE, Member of the most Excellent Order of the British Empire, you know, the one John Lennon sent back. The intro explains.

Luckily, there are a fair few live documents of his career, both on disc and DVD. It is probably to those I would direct the novice. However, like myself, if the bait takes, soon you will want the studio sets as well.

Although he has gone, as I said, his legacy lives on. Dundee indie band, the Hazey Janes, contain his daughter, Alice, and son, Matthew. Indeed, the band backed Marra live and on an EP, 'Houseroom', his last recording, in 2012. He was already ill with the throat cancer that killed him. And, since then, Alice has gone on to produce her own tribute to her father, both on record, and as a show. Here is her version of the featured song.