Saturday, May 23, 2020

Mayday/Danger: Danger Zone

purchase [sound track version from Top Gun ]

If no one wants to record for your film, does that put you in the Danger Zone? Is it dangerous to record a song that other artists steer clear of? Is it a danger to earn a Grammy for that song?

Kenny Loggins has been widely panned for this one, and by some, for a lot of whatever else he has done. One NYT review includes <no defined public image, unfocused and ingenuous> as descriptors.

I'm of the age that Loggins and Messina's 1970s hits were heavy rotation on my FM radio: Your Mama Dont Dance, Angry Eyes, House at Pooh Corner among them. And they rightly belong somewhere in the pantheon of rock music.

Danger Zone is a step away from the folk-pop of his 70s hits, but this harder rock is one of the driving/defining pieces used in the Top Gun movie and even picked up a Grammy. It ended up being one of Loggins' biggest hits. The song did get listed as a Billboard Top Pick (the same weekly list that included Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer - now there's something dangerous allright)

Loggins has recorded a number of movie favorites but the internet questions at what expense to his image. Bryan Adams, REO Speedwagon, possibly Toto and Berlin - they all turned down or missed  the chance to be the ones to record for the studio, some of them citing their reticence at singing for war.

Friday, May 22, 2020


Trying for a double whammy, associating both the song and the performer with the theme, doncha know! Well, no, not as it turns out. And, anyway, a song about a runaway train would sit awkwardly alongside the usual culprits occupying the songs of this short lived and single album-ed band. Yes, but I still suspect a tongue may well have been twixt tongue and cheek as the name for the song's main man came to be chosen. With a nod, I feel, more to the Grateful Dead than to the old west.

Sir Casey Jones/Eighteenth Day of May (2006)

Eighteenth Day of May were a glorious anachronism, a potent mix of folk-rock UK and folk-rock US, the first a post Fairport plunder of trad. arr., the second a Byrdsian singer-songwriter jangle. Here but for a brief blink in the spotlight, emerging first in 2003, all burnt out by the end of 2006, they left behind them a legacy of only one completed full length recording and a lot of lingering expectation.
Initially an acoustic trio, Alison Brice on consummate Denny-esque vocals and flute, with guitarists Ben Phillipson and Richard Olsen, each capable on a range of stringed instruments. With a mission statement based about the Incredible String Band, they seemed thirty years plus late for the game. However, following the vibe of many a folkie before and since, they embraced Judas and went electric, adding bass and drums. And, more importantly, viola, in second female member, Alison Cotton. A serendipitous appearance on a magazine cover disc led to to their catching the ear of Hannibal records supremo, Joe Boyd. That Joe Boyd, the same as had fostered loving care and attention on the early Fairport Convention, recognising here some kindred spirits. There's a neat interview with them round about that time.

Lady Margaret/Eighteenth Day of May (2006)

The eponymous LP, which came out in 2005, received probably more praise than plaudits, a critics favourite rather than causing any great bother to the charts. Little else in 2005 sounded quite like this, perhaps a reason why it has lasted so well, exuding a timeless charm. As a card carrying lover of this style of musical alchemy, it has remained a thing of wonder to me and not small number of like-minded chums. So imagine my joy as I read of an expanded re-release of the debut, along with various other bits and bobs that would have potentially made up the second album, had they managed to gel that long. And imagine my dismay as it came and went, obviously released on the 18th of May, a limited 600 copy release, on vinyl, now already available only for silly money. Shame, but I live in hope of a further release, perhaps on CD next time, please. Hell, even a download would do.

Sir Casey Jones/Eighteenth Day of May: Live at Green Man festival, 2006

Since the demise of the band there have been flickerings from ex-members, predominantly Olsen and Cotton. Cotton actually stayed for a while with Phillipson and the rhythm section, with a near Eighteenth Day of May part two ensemble, Trimdon Grange Explosion, but they too only managed a single eponymous LP. So far, at least. For something a little more avant garde, she also has a developing solo career of drones and loops, voice and viola to the fore. Olsen I had heard no more of until I was alerted to the similarly jangly sounds, if with a more country-rock bent to them, of Hanging Stars. With three releases to their name, bubbling under the surface of the small pond of music styles tending to attract little current mainstream favour, they are right up my proverbial, echoes of the Flying Burrito Brothers and Love imbuing their sounds. I hadn't even realised their frontman was the one and same Richard Olsen, that knowledge somehow adding buckets of kudos to my enjoyment.

The Bonnie Banks of Fordie/Trimdon Grange Explosion (2019)

Honeywater/Hanging Stars (2017)

So, turning full circle, on this 22nd day of May, a few days late, please investigate these three strands,  each straggling from the premise and promise that there is no such thing as out-dated musical styles, just buttoned down ears afraid to tempt fate.

Eighteenth Day of May
Trimdon Grange Explosion
Hanging Stars.