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.

Aug 032021
 

Native SonsIn two years time Los Lobos, as a band, will be an astonishing fifty years old, with a staggering seventeen albums to their name between 1978 and now, let alone a myriad of other appearances, including dozens of cover versions and a host of tribute recordings. Few bands are as able to flit between genres so effortlessly, as their presence on projects as varied as records in praise of Fats Domino, Richard Thompson, and the Grateful Dead displays. Now, with their new release Native Sons, they’re putting their latest varied covers in one place.

Native Sons is by no means the band’s first all-covers project either, thanks to Ride This, a covers EP of seven songs in 2004, and the frankly astonishing Los Lobos Go Disney, a 2009 album of nothing but Disney soundtrack favorites, played in their inimitable East L.A. sound. Flitting between an abrasive rock music, Tex-Mex stylizations and full on conjunto Tejano, they have a massive footprint in modern roots based musics.

The theme here is Los Angeles, the L.A. music they grew up listening to, the music on the radio as they honed their trade. So we get songs by big hitters like the Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield, alongside some of the popular Chicano fare from the barrios. Like so many releases this year, it arose out of the sense of claustrophobia inflicted by the coronavirus; unable to play, unable to tour, the band hit on the idea of a playlist of all those L.A. songs that had inspired and fed their appetite for music. Whittled down from a longlist of around 60 songs, here are the top 12, which must surely give hope for a second volume or so, or at least for a later deluxe edition.(By the way, top 12, but 13 songs on the record, the title track being a newly written original, which sums up the point and the purpose of the whole exercise.)
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Jul 172021
 

Rock music has always idolized and iconicized those seen to be casualties. If you sing and/or play, premature death and/or mental illness always seems to add to the luster of flickering creative flames. Conversely, good health and a productive work ethic is sometimes demonized, until old age brings about a respectability to earlier derided middle-aged output. Roky Erickson fell firmly into the former category, a wide-eyed and vibrant presence in the 1960s, knocked down by the all too familiar cocktail of which came first, drugs or mental instability. The answer, as always, and as with Syd Barrett, Peter Green and Brian Wilson: probably a bit of both.
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Jul 162021
 

Dave McMurrayCovering the Dead means a whole lot more than just playing the tunes; to give their songs credibility, there also needs to be a recreation of their spirit. That Dave McMurray has it in spades is immediately apparent from the first few bars of “Fire on the Mountain,” the opening track on his new album Grateful Deadication. That faithful dancing-bear swagger, halfway between a lope and a canter, is indubitably present, correct and reporting for duty. Few bands have such an unmistakable footprint, and to reproduce that–and with your own voice, yet–is little short of remarkable.

McMurray’s “voice” is his saxophone, predominately tenor, and a thing of beauty it is, as is Grateful Deadication as a whole. McMurray is the real deal, a dyed in the wool jazzman with a long and parallel career in sessions; it is his sax on records as diverse as the Stones’ Voodoo Lounge and Brian Wilson’s I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.

Remarkably, he had never really heard the Dead and their music until a chance encounter with Bob Weir, leading to his playing alongside him and the Wolf Bros at 2019’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Intrigued by the odd chord structures and quirky time signatures that litter the songs of the Dead, McMurray immersed himself in their back catalog. He found he was able to fully get into their music, and to appreciate its closeness to the jazz of artists he had greater awareness of–Miles Davis, Weather Report, even Soft Machine.

This, in turn, led to Grateful Deadication, which features his own regular sidemen as well as cameos from Bettye LaVette and Weir, and is his second album for acclaimed jazz label Blue Note. (His first, Music Is Life, featured a cover of the White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army.”)
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Jun 252021
 

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

Eurythmics Greatest Hits

Yes, we are back in Greatest Hits territory again, probably the only way to sufficiently scour out the coverland of this undeniably extremely successful band, largely better known for singles rather than albums. Some may question my choosing to take this challenge, given a prior opinion or two of mine around the fragrant Ms. Lennox. But let me stake my claim: the initial output of Eurythmics sounds just sublime to these ears and was seldom bettered amongst the bevy of synthesizer duos of the day. Sure, ubiquity can conspire against how well critical reception actually was at the time, but, for a while, wow, how ubiquitous were they? With 75 mill records seemingly sold, either you or someone you know must have at least something by them. I know I have.

I remember well my first sight of Eurythmics, on that venerable UK serious rock show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. It aired late at night on a minority channel for nascent music nerds, all pretending to be asleep for their parents downstairs. I was already familiar with the duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, from their earlier work in The Tourists. And I confess, I was as much taken that Whistle Test concentrated more on the dual facts that they were at Conny Plank’s German studio, the home of Can, and that Blondie sticksman, Clem Burke was thumping their tubs, as well as Can bassist, Holger Czukay, turning up on French horn. But they failed to set the cash tills ringing; a revision and revamp required and delivered, just in time for the peak of MTV, their videos ideal for the format. I was transfixed.

Eurythmics’ first (OK, second really) record was a masterpiece fit for its times, with a slew of singles all gaining attention and acclaim. Over the next (was it only) six years, they took over the charts, with a run of 21 singles, between two and five each year, most going top twenty if not top ten. After quitting at the top of their game, they made a brief return in 1999 and had a further brace of hits. The sound changed radically over those years, from synthesizer duo to stadium rock extravaganzas, but always with the searing knife through butter vocal of Lennox to the fore. Lennox then reverted to her solo career, Stewart to a lot of plans and promises, if little much of real merit to show for it. Bar a solitary appearance at a Beatles tribute show in 2014, that was it, they were done. (OK, seeing as that was a cover……)

A confession before kick-off: this piece was originally based about Ultimate Collection, the second and slightly larger of Eurythmics’ hit compilations, mainly as I liked so much the two singles that came from Peace, their 1999 reprise. Frustratingly, I had to ditch that idea, due to the shortage of cover versions. Which isn’t saying this set was necessarily easy. But it was a shame, there being more than a couple of covers I liked, songs that had been hits for the band, but had inexplicably failed the cut for that first collection. So, having done the work, may I sneak in an odd bonus track?

So, let’s see who was listening to Eurythmics…
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Jun 212021
 

Dylan LeBlanc PastimesLike many a performer, Dylan LeBlanc spent the pandemic lockdown to good intent, producing Pastimes. This six-song EP consists entirely of covers, songs that have “inspired him musically and spiritually,” drawing back, as they do, on his childhood and the music he was exposed to by his father, a jobbing Nashville songwriter. Father and son spent Dylan’s teenaged years in the Nashville clubs, where LeBlanc senior was plying his trade as a writer and session man. And one, I might say, with a mighty fine taste in music.

Self-produced in Muscle Shoals, the performances on Pastimes are all live in the studio, with sympathetic backing from a mix of musicians, guitars, keyboards, steel and, gloriously, a string quartet. Strings can often over egg the work of sensitive singer-songwriters, the label most often attached to LeBlanc, but here they complement and complete the arrangements delightfully. These are not dramatic reframings of largely well-known songs; rather, these fall more into loving recreations, the respect for the songs–and, by default, the authors–hugely evident.
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Jun 042021
 

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

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams, the album, was the game changer for Lucinda Williams, the artist, even if few knew or realized it at the time. Sneaking out on Rough Trade records, home of the Smiths, it started a slow burn of releases, initially only by drip feed, speeding up over the ensuing decades to a now near insatiable speed.

Williams’ debut, 1979’s Ramblin’ On My Mind, was an overly polite album of blues covers and country staples. Next was Happy Woman Blues, a first stab at her own material, in 1980. Now, with her self-titled third record, she was finally paired with a band, and the combination of the developing rawness of her vocals, allied to some country-folkie-blues, was a hit more with critics than the public, a fate she was to endure for some time yet.
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