Seuras Og

Seuras Og is an old enough to know better family Dr in Birmingham, UK, having taken the easy option of medicine upon failure to get work in a record store. By now drowning in recorded music, he has thought it about time to waste the time of others in his passion here, as well as in his own blog, www.retropathology.blogspot.com

Nov 292019
 

MOSE-ALLISON-IF-YOURE-GOING-TO-THE-CITYMose Allison is possibly best known these days through his association with Van Morrison, who released Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison in 1996. Morrison probably gave Allison’s career a late boost, presenting him as a somewhat kindred spirit, albeit having a few more years on him, and hopefully a more benign presence than Van the Man, if even harder to classify.

I had always filed Allison under jazz, though blues was probably closer to his idiom, yet here we have If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison, which sees him being covered by a slew of largely rock music gentry from the past few decades. Listening to this selection, it becomes easier to see that blues is at least the template to Allison’s songs. Not necessarily a version familiar to the backstreet bars of Chicago, this is a more polished version of the blues, with echoes of both supper club and Tin Pan Alley – though in Allison’s hands and voice, they sound perhaps a shade less archaic. These are fine songs and, if these covers succeed in pointing attention back to the originals, then at least part of the work of this collection has been done.
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Nov 222019
 

Come On Up To The HouseThere are several reasons why Come On up To The House: Women Sing Waits had to be more than good, not least the fact this is scarcely the first such project. Waits cover albums by individual female artists – Holly Cole and Scarlett Johansson, just as a couple f’rinstances – are already lining up in judgement and for comparison. Then there are the myriad individual covers songs scattered across the repertoire of innumerable women of note. Why, I can find ten quality female-sung versions of “The Heart of Saturday Night” at the drop of a pork pie hat.

So why should this be so? What’s the draw here? Firstly must be the innate quality of the songs, somehow inhabiting a timeless era unsullied by the insistent imprints of any one style or structure. Secondly – and I tread carefully here – Waits’ voice and arrangements aren’t overly, shall we say, to all tastes, the combination of corncrake and clatter sometimes masking the delicate beauty in some of his work, especially the later years. The female voice will often draw this closer into focus than ol’ ‘Frank’ at his wildest, silk purses from, well, you know. Finally, it is now so very long since any new, it seems timely to have a reminder of him. And maybe a prompt for his muse? Continue reading »

Nov 152019
 

JHsingsThePoliceJuliana Hatfield Sings the PoliceJuliana Hatfield Sings the Police is the latest (second) in, now, what must be a series of such projects, her JH Sings Olivia Newton-John being released barely 18 months ago. Eclecticism clearly a calling card, the sweepstakes on whomsoever is next in line must have long odds: Metallica? The Beach Boys? Putting such thoughts aside, Hatfield has always had a way with covers, quirky versions of songs peppered throughout her long and varied career. We’ve commented upon this here many a time; I even gave her a grudging shout-out in a recent Led Zeppelin Five Good Covers piece on “Rock and Roll.”

I have always considered her together with Evan Dando, either the mythology or my imagination suggesting she perpetually the good girl to his bad boy, just saying no to anything other than close musical collaboration. It’s a good story oft played, bringing each a shared notoriety, fueled by their somehow always seeming to find themselves together on a stage, whether planned or otherwise. A child of the late 70’s, she purportedly acquired her love of music from a babysitter, who introduced her to the works of L.A. punks X. Kicking off her career in 1992, with the eponymous Juliana Hatfield, guess who was already alongside, as one of the guitarists and singers (Hatfield’s main instrument being the bass guitar)? If you guessed Evin Dandow, you really need to work on your spelling.

Whilst he didn’t appear on the follow-up, the debut by the Juliana Hatfield Three, or the subsequent eight albums, credited solely in her name, Hatfield cropped up a fair bit on or in Dando’s releases, notably the two biggest and most influential of his Lemonheads releases, It’s a Shame About Ray and Come On Feel the Lemonheads, in 2002 and 2003 respectively. 2012 saw another record, called merely Juliana Hatfield (confusingly, as that was her debut’s name too), which was all covers, from which the aforementioned “Rock and Roll” hailed, along with staples from Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Who, as well as lesser known fare from Teenage Fanclub and Liz Phair. A couple more solo efforts and the second JH3 record dropped 22 years after the first, followed by the ONJ tribute. And yet another solo release, so she can never be accused of being idle. In her spare time she has also been part of other bands and collaborations, notably the Blake Babies and Some Girls. Phew!
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Oct 282019
 

jenn champion the blue albumI’ll pull no punches: Janiva Magness is one of the best blues voices you maybe won’t have heard of. Despite being only the second ever female artist to win the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award, she has been operating largely under the mainstream radar since the early ’90s, quietly building up steam, aided and abetted of late by the retro chops of Brian Setzer/Dan Hicks producer, Dave Darling. Now, with Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty: Change in the Weather, she sets out to cover the work of a voice that’s been hears far more often.

Magness has done Fogerty before: she included “Long As I Can See the Light” in her 2016 release, the Grammy-nominated Love Wins Again. Clearly this hit a chord, as this time she runs with a further dozen, both CCR material and some later songs. But make no mistake, this is no cut’n’paste job, settling for substituting her husky vocal for his hoarse holler; rarely does she revisit the swamp-pop murk of the originals, applying instead varied shades of classic blues to the palette, giving new life and, dare I say it, depth. So, rather than the potential overkill of listening to a Creedence greatest hits selection, the varied timbres bring added nuance to the lyrics, bringing forth more — and again I falter — subtlety than the bombast Fogerty and the band gave the material (rightly so in their case, as it worked for the needs of their audience at the time).

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Oct 282019
 

My Darling Clementine is the name of UK husband and wife team of Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, each with a track record ahead of starting to perform together some nine years ago. King was the leading light of mid-90’s Manchester Americana band, The Good Sons, who managed to take, with relative acclaim, their coals to Newcastle, recording and touring alongside and under the wing of Townes Van Zandt. A later solo career saw him working with Jackie Leven, and a feature of his occasional forays alone sees him play the songs of both Van Zandt and Leven, in a set of two halves. His wife has similarly had a career of her own, notably with her 2001 play “They Call Her Natasha,” self-performed and written and featuring her versions of the songs of Elvis Costello. The songs, some of which crop up on her other albums, also formed the basis of a tour.

Since 2010 they have put out four albums, in sometimes barbed tribute to the male/female, often husband/wife, duets of ’60s Nashville, and these have been extremely well received. The second, The Reconciliation, was described by Country Music People as “the best British Country record ever made.” Now they’re back with Country Darkness, Volume 1.
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Oct 182019
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

rock and roll zeppelin covers

Even if you can’t quite stomach the whole full-on vibe of Led Zeppelin — me, I have to admit to some yawning over the self-reverent mythologizing that can abound whenever one J. Page gets interviewed — you have to admit that “Rock and Roll” is one prime slice of, well, rock’n’roll. Astonishing, even, and one that has me almost believing it all. To be fair, at the time Zeppelin were bigger than huge, bigger than massive, and the sheer impact of side one of IV, on headphones, in a record store in Eastbourne, Sussex, U.K., had this 14-year-old boy smitten. I’d found II too guitarry (!), but this had me on their team immediately. (Side 2 less so, but that’s another story.)

Anyhow, it was in one of these long fawning articles the rock music glossies are so fond of that I discovered the back story of how “Rock and Roll” practically wrote itself in minutes, or at least the melody line. Messing around in the studio, John Bonham suddenly kicked off into an embellished drum intro, “borrowed” from Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’.” Jimmy Page instinctively banging in with the riff that basically is the song. With lyrics come from ye olde school rocke thesaurus, Robert Plant’s keening banshee of a vocal somehow imbues a meaningful basis for it all, whilst John Paul Jones’ subterranean bass underpins the whole thing. And, just when you are thinking it all a bit derivative, a final touch of brilliance: single note piano pounding it into the home stretch, courtesy of sixth Stone Ian Stewart.
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