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 a few other places dotted about the web.

May 212024
 

Long Distance LoveWell, how about that! On the same day as a still-going Little Feat put out a blues cover album, Sam’s Place (review incoming), so too choose Sweet Relief to put out Long Distance Love, a star-studded charity tribute to their late founder and lynchpin, Lowell George. Star-studded? Well, let’s say the likes of Elvis Costello, Dave Alvin and Ben Harper are all present and accounted for, with George’s own daughter, Inara George, also putting in an appearance.

Lowell George was a slide guitar maestro, a singer/songwriter with a penchant for complex swampland boogie, polyrhythmic shuffles to delight both brain and bootheels. He formed Little Feat back in 1969, after a short spell with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. A set of well-received albums followed, until 1979, when George (a) dissolved the band, (b) released his solo album Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here, and (c) died of a massive heart attack at the age of 34. It took eight years before the relicts of what had assuredly been his band reconvened, and they remain a vital presence, with George’s songs still the ones the fans mainly come to hear. These are the songs that return to the spotlight on Long Distance Love, and the four and a half decades since Lowell’s voice was stilled have done nothing to dampen their vibe.
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May 102024
 

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

You Are My Sunshine

“You Are My Sunshine” is an old warhorse of a song. It’s been around for so long and in so many forms as to, now, be quite beyond categorization. Until recently it has been unfairly parked under hokey old cornball music for old folk, even if the many cheesier versions out there have deserved and drawn such scorn. I know that I thought it dreadful old nonsense, until I was recently forced to accept and re-evaluate it as a song of some pathos and persuasion. You may still share my earlier view, so I put it to you: Can any of these covers shift that opinion?

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Apr 192024
 

The Power of the Heart: A Tribute to Lou ReedLou Reed was quite the fella. Initially a proto-Brill Building popsmith for Pickwick Records, he morphed into a leather and shades VU biker and glam-rock trans offender. And FX metal feedback noisenik, and elder statesman socio-political commentator, before closing his recording career with a soundtrack for meditation and mindfulness. Indeed, just about anything and everything, for nearly five decades, all while being a notoriously spiky literary curmudgeon, bane of any journalist trying to capture his essence. It took music, not words, to do that, and with The Power of the Heart: A Tribute to Lou Reed, it’s officially been done.
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Apr 122024
 

The Tompkins Square Records label is best known for their allegiance to folk, country, blues and gospel, usually through the application of acoustic guitar, with or without voice. As such, they have developed a name for promoting so-called American Primitive guitar styles. That’s always a misnomer, given the skills of the artist concerned. but the label has stuck and here we are. Amongst names grateful to get a Tompkins Square leg-up are Michael Chapman, Ryley Walker, James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg, classic and classy players all.

The Imaginational Anthems series has covered a lot of good ground lately. Volume XI was an exploration of modern pedal steel; Vol. XII included a tribute to Michael Chapman. Now we have Imaginational Anthem vol. XIII : Songs of Bruce Cockburn, a tribute to the work of a Canadian artist unduly overlooked in favor of his better known compatriots. A very lazy descriptor might be the Canadian Richard Thompson, given his agility with a six-string and teasingly lyrical wordplay, but Cockburn’s dreamy soundscapes pack an altogether different spiritual punch.

Here, a selection of Tompkins Square stalwarts offer their take on him and his songs. I guess it is his playing that gets the most attention, but there are vocal tracks as well. Curated by James Toth, who has recruited a squad of lesser known names, this works well as a primer for all, or most, those contributing, as much as it does an introduction, if unfamiliar, to Cockburn. And if you do know him, better still.
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Apr 052024
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Labour of Love

I’m on a bit of a Nick Lowe bender at present, provoked by a question I was asked around how many versions there are of the timeless glory of (“What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding.” (A: 70, as a bare minimum, and counting.) And no, here on this page, surely I don’t have to explain that isn’t him covering Elvis Costello, do I? Take it from us.

Lowe has had a curious career, currently riding the wave of celebrated elder statesman, something that, at one time, seemed inconceivable. Indeed, pub-rock was never deigned or designed to build legendary status, being more about a rowdy night out, three-minute songs and sticky carpets. For pub-rock is where he emerged first, that early ’70s response to the prevailing mood of the music of the day, then all sprawling epics, awash with endless lookatme solos and preening prima donna frontmen, more in touch with their accountants than their audience. Pub rock was fun and uplifting, by people that looked like you, for people that looked like you, a good time, recycling the best of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country and soul. Solos were for sissies and the chorus was king.

Brinsley Schwarz, the band, had a shaky start fifty-four years ago today, but they picked themselves up and dusted themselves down. Songs and haircuts shortened, they joined a joyous circuit of largely London pubs, along with Dr. Feelgood, Ducks Deluxe, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers and many more. Predating punk by a year or three, the enthusiasm and excitement was the same, if garbed with a touch more experience and age. Nick Lowe was bassist, lead singer and main songwriter for Brinsley Schwarz, and they made a good run for themselves before splitting. Schwarz, the guitarist who gave his name to the name of the group, hooked up with Graham Parker and was the linchpin of his band, The Rumour, whilst Lowe joined forces with Welsh retro-rock guitar man Dave Edmunds to form Rockpile.

The Rockpile years saw a stellar uplift in Lowe’s writing. Whilst his influences remained obvious, his magpie tendencies with a melody were less overt, and the run of records, whilst short, was wonderful. (Rockpile, the band, only really made one record, but Edmunds and Lowe’s solo albums were Rockpile records in everything but name, as was, arguably, Musical Shapes, an album by Lowe’s then-wife Carlene Carter.) As that band subsided, so Lowe advanced on a solo career, with more acclaim than sales.

The story goes that, down on his luck and thinking of jacking it all in, plop, a letter arrived in his mailbox. Unbeknownst to him, a cover of “Peace, Love and Understanding” had been picked up for a film. Curtis Stigers, in case you didn’t know.) And when that film is The Bodyguard, with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, a massive worldwide hit, with the soundtrack album going likewise global, the royalties on that one song were rather more than just an unexpected bonus, effectively paving the way for his career to continue.

Since then, Lowe has continued to ply his idiosyncratic path, with almost deliberately unfashionable songs of self-deprecation and sly humor, allied to melodies culled from musical styles seldom at any cutting edge, becoming a UK national treasure. His production work, with early Elvis Costello and the Pretenders, has also planted a reputation for a sound yet simple approach, where the melody is master, the surroundings there merely to reflect the song rather than to divert attention elsewhere. Content to follow his own muse, he is as likely to play live in a solo setting, just his voice and an acoustic guitar, rattling through his “hits,” as to turn up with oddball Tex-Mex rockabilly renegades Los Straitjackets, who have become an unofficially regular backing group for him.

Labour of Love is one of at least three Lowe tributes, there having been also Lowe Profile, featuring the likes of Dave Alvin and old Brinsley’s bandmate, Ian Gomm, and Lowe Country, with Amanda Shires, Ron Sexsmith and Chatham County Line, amongst others. I could have featured any of the trio, but collectively, I think this tops the other two. Curated by L.A. power popper Walter Clevenger, himself in thrall to the styles embraced by Lowe, and to the singer himself, this 2001 double disc captures most of Lowe’s moods and re-presents them in the hands of his peers, the affection often palpably obvious.

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Mar 222024
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Kraftwerk

Sometimes only a greatest hits will do, a necessity to hit those spots and scratch those itches. For me, Kraftwerk’s The Catalogue is one of those times.

I guess that sort of reveals me as the dilettante I try so hard to pretend I am not. But dilettante or no, I bow to no one in my like of some of Kraftwerk’s MO–which, I guess, gives it all away. It’s true, I confess to not having the traction for the band’s entire oeuvre, but the ones I know, I love. More importantly, I recognize their pivotal position, as popular music discovered the absence of a need for guitars. Tougher call than it sounds, but these guys stuck steadfastly to this template throughout various permutations for over half a century, whilst their minions and acolytes all started slyly adding guitars and, horrors, live drums. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Depeche Mode.)

The Catalogue is one of many Kraftwerk kompilations that exist, and probably the best one for the attention of Kraftwerk civilians like me, primarily as it has the highest headcount of hits. Before all start shouting at the screen, The Catalogue, as in the commercially released version, was indeed an eight-disc remastering of the original existing catalogue. But a promo single-disc compilation was also made available (and, according to Discogs, is able to buy, pre-loved, for a very reasonable outgoing). That’s the one I’m basing this Full Album post on. Is this a slightly deceitful ploy? Maybe, but this is my post and, given I actually have a copy, I can. Besides, let’s be honest–who can even remember the original of “Der Stimme De Energie”? (Go on, then, hum it!)
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