Friday, March 25, 2022


 Yes, I know it's a cover. In fact, all but one of the songs on her first album are covers, arguably all the more surprising, with her subsequent three records being visually all self-penned, at least including co-writes. But it is to her eponymous debut I return the most, giving life and substance to songs I am otherwise not overly fond of.

Named down to her love of Charlie Parker, her neo-jazz skronkings have soundtracked many an apocalypse, making this post entirely appropriate for the moment. I jest; the name comes from the more prosaic open mouth she made as a hungry infant, seeking sustenance. Plus, it is a whole lot easier to say than her given name, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde, almost as much of a mouthful as the dissimilarly derided Dido, for whom it is compulsory to mock with the full extravagance of her christened names. Odd that, but I digress, not least as Birdy has a far greater claim on the Peerage through the Lords and Barons that abound her family tree. As well, interestingly, the actor, Dirk Bogarde, her late great-uncle. And, worry not, neo-jazz skronkings are the last thing she could be accused of.

The original song, by electronica-dance merchants the xx, is such a slight tendril of a tune that it is, to my mind, remarkable what Birdy brings to it, her skilled and school piano-play an altogether more stately setting for the somewhat allegorical lyric. If this theme was designed to show a light on the horror Putin is unleashing on his neighbour state, I fear the words are overly vague, but I am disregarding that point. Just the act of typing out Putin is a psycho monster makes me feel better, wishing that alone could give some relief to the beleaguered Ukraine. Of course it can't, but I can only hope that someone somewhere is plotting a sly, sneaky bullet in him, sooner rather than later. 

But back to Birdy. Like most people, I first heard of her as she brought Bon Iver's song, above, to a wider audience, at the same time, rendering it bearable to those, like me, who can appreciate the construction but cannot stand his enuretic voice. (Apologies to his potent fanbase, who, as he delves deeper and deeper into studio tricks and FX, goes from bad to much, much worse.) What I didn't know, until writing this piece, was that she was a sickening fourteen years old when she cut this cover. Eek, simultaneously discovering I am somewhat older than either of her parents. Given I am known to be especially curmudgeonly toward child prodigies, perhaps it is as well I didn't, at the time I enjoyed the song and bought the album. That was 11 years ago, the other covers on her debut split between the left field indie faves and the sole chestnut, James Taylor's ageless Fire and Rain.

So, what of her later stuff? Casting her net wide for sympathetic co-writers, her next two releases show her finding her feet, it taking 2021's Young Hearts to display the sense of maturity she pretended earlier. Surrender, the song below, is one such example, which brings on board the not inconsiderable talents of Daniel Tashian (Lissie, Kacey Musgraves), a fella who knows his hooks. 

Why have I chosen Surrender? I guess as my heart hopes Zelensky won't, even if my head suggests he has to, in the absence of the NATO support he so strongly wants, and that NATO are so scared of providing.

Gimme Shelter....

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Marching: Minor March


purchase [ Quintet/Sextet ]

Bitches Brew was the first that I heard (of) Miles Davis. It must have been mid '70s.

Much later, I saw him live in Istanbul near the end of his life. My wife was 5 months pregnant and *man* was he loud. My son-to-be kicked his way through that one. I think it qualifies as "he's been to a Miles Davis concert". We were in something like row 5, which undoubtedly added to the volume. That outdoor venue appears to have been one leg of his 1988 European tour which apparently he cut short for health reasons. Despite his fame/acclaim, he came across as particularly ornery.

There's a fair amount of Davis' work that I find hard to access/enjoy. This 1954 piece - Minor March - isn't one of those. Maybe it's partially the effect of Milt Jackson and his vibraphone that makes the piece (the album? Quintet/Sextet) fairly melodic.

Minor March was written by Jackie McLean who plays the sax on it. Wikipedia says that Davis wrote in his autobiography, "I remember Jackie got so high he got terrified he couldn't play. I don't know what that shit was all about, but after this date, I never used Jackie again." Wikipedia says he never recorded with the man again.