Thursday, July 8, 2021

Opposites: Awake/Asleep

purchase [the band]

"A tad obvious" says our own Seuras, speaking of feathers and lead in his heavy/light post a few days back. The same holds true for any of the opposites we have poked at in this theme - "a tad obvious". My choice of awake/asleep is no less obvious, once we say it outloud, it is: "but, of course."

That said, I think I can say I now have a favorite song from The Band's oevre. I mean, there are several fine tunes over the 10 years from '68 to '78 that included Robertson in the band. But I particularly like the  - I'm going to call it a jangle - of the song. Maybe it's the semi-ragtime keyboards in the original recording? I like the sound almost as much as I like the lyrics. Just a few of them that are stuck bouncing around my head:

you will be hangin' on a string from your when you believe

you will relieve the only soul that you were born with to grow old and never know

I could wake up in the morning dead

And if I thought it would do any good I'd stand on the rock where Moses stood 

But then I came across a version that Rick Danko (the vocals on the original) shared, and -for me - the song gained further respect.

Another awake. I confess I have never really felt a reason to follow Katy Perry's music. I can see why some folks do and did, however. But when I see that she, too, has an awake song, I guess it's time for me to dig a little deeper than knowing that she's done some American Idol stuff. Her <Wide Awake> from 2012 sounds to me like most of what I have heard of her music/style ("...anthemic and often sexually suggestive...electro-pop...", per britannica)

As for the other side of the coin ("ah", he says a little belatedly, "another pair of opposites we have here"), let's go back to Abbey Road, 1969, pretty much the end of the Beatles as a band.

Golden Slumbers is one of eight short songs that make up the 16 minute track titled <Medley>. You know the song. It's the one that begins "Once there was a way ... to get back home ... sleep pretty darling do not cry ..."

Let's continue sleeping with a listen to the better known version of Mbube, the song originally from Solomon Linda back in 1939 - the one that you've probably heard the version of from The Lion King as well as this one from The Tokens. It's not particularly going to put you to sleep, but maybe you don't want to spend the night near a sleeping lion, whether you "hush my darling" or not.

And we'll wrap it up, although there's plenty more to cover, with an appropriately named band (that I again really don't know much about except their name, which fits the subject): Asleep At The Wheel. They've got a coupla songs that - besides their name - touch on sleep: Midnight in Memphis, and an album titled <Keep Me Up Nights> plus more, for sure (In My Dreams ...)

Sunday, July 4, 2021


Hmm, a third week, a third challenge. Silly? Serious? Low-brow? High-brow? Light-weight? That’s it! Avoirdupois! Weight. Of course, as a nominally music appreciation site, it can also be your difference twixt Sabbath and Sweet Thursday, so, well, just so. 

Traces (Light and Weight)/Enigma

Me, I am going for weight, going for the compare and contrast between a ton of feathers and a ton of lead. (And, believe me, I toyed with what you’re thinking, feeling it a tad obvious…..) So, for the sake of the songs, light and heavy. And if you fancy a drink with that, be my guest, whether it be a light and bitter or a pint of heavy. More anon.

Lighter Than Air/Christine Collister

It is the glorious voice of Christine Collister that kicks us off, she possibly better known as half of Clive Gregson and...., it being in that duo she made her name.I recall I had heard about the cassette only debut by Clive and Christine, persuading my wife to get me a copy for Christmas. Clive Gregson I already knew of, from his band, Any Trouble, featured here. Anyhow, shortly before that Christmas, we toddled off to see the Richard Thompson Band, playing at Birmingham Odeon. Imagine my glee as, not only were Gregson and Collister the opening act, they were also in Thompson's line-up as well, a state of affairs that lasted a few years. As a duo they were also regulars at the Red Lion Folk Club, also in Birmingham, and we caught them a number of times. A couple in life as well as art, differences arose and they split, with there also developing some sort of rift between Gregson and Richard Thompson, with a snarky RT review, penned by the former, appearing in Mojo, after he was no longer in the band. Legend suggests the Thompson song, 'Put It There, Pal', was the riposte. 

Both Collister and Gregson went onto solo careers, each continuing to this day, if never quite attaining the accolades of their joint work. This song, a rare co-write by Collister, appears on her 2005 outing, 'Love', which actually had origins in showing off the capabilities of the then wilting format of vinyl, and is designed as a showpiece for her vocals, actually better in her earlier solo output, or, at least, with more sympathetic arrangements. But it is still a powerful instrument, irrespective.

Light and bitter, the drink, is, or was, the popular combination of a half of bitter, draft english ale, the kind best served at room temperature, for any philistine readers from afar, and a small bottle of light ale, which was, I guess, slightly lighter, both in colour and volume, bottled variant of the same. (Here's the science.)

He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)/Rufus Wainwright

Apologies for posting the Rufus rather than the better known 'original', which of course it wasn't. It was a cover version. Ahead of the Hollies having their 1969 smash with it, something they were in sore need of, Graham Nash having jumped ship a year or so before, it had earlier failed to set the charts alive in versions by Kelly Gordon (no, me, neither), or, Lord help us, Neil Diamond. Written by a pair of jobbing songwriters Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, I bet you want to hear the Diamond version, don't you? My sole reason for posting this version is that I have always liked the timbre of Rufus's voice, something I gather many don't, and he has a quite a decent way with covers. This strays little from the original, and I have half an idea that the producers of 'Zoolander', the film in which it features, did not have the rights for the Hollies version. 

Two interesting things I learnt about the song for this piece. Firstly referring to the lyric, I had previously assumed heavy was as in heavy, man, thus a description of seriousness, or sternness, and that brother was meant as in a friend or colleague in dudedom. The original phrase comes from a sermon delivered by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, in the 1890s, wherein a young peasant girl was being asked how she could be possibly be managing to carry a young man on her back. Her response, maybe minus the ain't, was the basis of his Sabbath message and, latterly, of the song. And secondly, the session pianist on the Hollies' version was one Elton John!

Returning to this version, surely nobody can be unaware of the fact that Rufus is the son of acerbic singer -songwriter, Loudon Wainwright and of the late Kate McGarrigle, but here's the back story if you are not. Somewhat of a theatrical talent, shall we say, drawn a little to musicals and the like, it is his simpler and less exotic fare I enjoy the better.

Heavy is what the Scots drink, or order, in preference to bitter, and, by and large, it is a slightly heavier and darker brew than the English style, although the two terms mean more or less the same. It can get confusing. Mind you, ordering a beer in Glasgow has always been confusing and not for the timid. Lagers are as popular, strangely, here as much as south of the border, and if you were to hear someone asking for a pint of Mick, it would be that they were after, an example of best Weegie* rhyming slang, where lager rhymes with the be-lipped Stones frontman.

*Weegie = Glaswegian.