Nov 252015

joyTo all reports, Ewan MacColl was a difficult man. It’s perhaps hard to believe that a man who could write as sensitive a song as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (for Peggy Seeger, Pete’s half-sister and MacColl’s third wife), the song made into a cross-genre standard by Roberta Flack in 1972, could be so uniformly feared and vilified, yet still admired. I guess it’s the usual case of ignoring the man and embracing the music, and this man, who arguably invented the UK folk boom of the late 1950s and early ’60s, had little interest in embracing any of the young acolytes drawn to his flame – he called Bob Dylan’s work “tenth-rate drivel.”

Born James Miller in Manchester, his life was a series of reinventions, as he became a communist rabble-rouser in his teens, then a George Bernard Shaw-admired  playwright and, in his mid-30’s, self-acclaimed champion of a fiercely curated folk idiom, wherein such modern anachronisms as make-up for women (and possibly women in general) were decried and denied, while Dylan, Paul Simon, and others of those young acolytes were freely liberating the repertoire into their own.
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Oct 172011

The Live Lounge is on a roll this month. Last week we heard the Horrors cover Beyoncé there and today Bombay Bicycle Club hit the studio to cover the buzz act of the moment, Lana Del Rey. They brought a giant marimba for “Video Games,” giving it a much more delicate take than the version we heard Friday. Continue reading »

Aug 162011

Artists who contributed to the new John Martyn tribute album had a lot of options when choosing a track to cover; Martyn released twenty albums during his forty-plus year career. Thirty artists covered a song from Martyn’s expansive catalog to create Johnny Boy Would Love This: A Tribute to John Martyn. The British singer-songwriter, best known for his unique style on guitar, had a career that spanned genres from folk to jazz to rock and his music touched artists old and new. We previewed contributions from Beck, David Gray, and others earlier this month; now the complete album is available.

The remarkable scope of Johnny Boy Would Love This is an asset in that the album offers a rich, diverse group of tracks from well-respected artists. However, similarities between many tracks give the feeling that the collection could have been more carefully curated. Both discs are disproportionately populated with gentle, introspective covers; all the tracks respectfully pay tribute to Martyn, but not all offer something unique to the collection. There are, however, a selection of standouts among the thirty songs that make Johnny Boy Would Love This a worthwhile purchase for Martyn fans. Continue reading »

Nov 192010

The British are always trying to musically one-up us Americans. Yes, we know the Beatles are from the U.K…but we got them on iTunes. Just when we thought things were pulling even though, Club Seat (pronounced SAY-at) appeared. The British online community is getting the drop on the A.V. Club with a new series “On Track… With SEAT” for Channel 4 in the UK. The series takes artists like Robyn to London Metropolis Studio to record tracks straight to vinyl. Continue reading »