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 172024
 
bruce springsteen rainy night

Bruce Springsteen has been vocal about his awe in the face of Shane MacGowan’s poetry and lyrics. He visited the ailing star last year, and sent a note of condolence on his passing. For his two concerts in the Republic of Ireland since that date, he performed a classic from the Poguetry in Motion EP, “A Rainy Night in Soho”—first in Kilkenny to open the set, again in Cork last night to close it. Nick Cave sang it at McGowan’s funeral and the song has become an anthem to a fallen soul. Continue reading »

May 172024
 

Talking Heads TributeThe quote attributed to Brian Eno about the Velvet Underground’s first album inspiring everyone who bought it to form a band applies differently to Talking Heads. If you were already starting your band in your parents’ garage or the art school lounge, surrounded (in either case) by the fog of weed, you would surely dream about being Talking Heads.

During a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career, Talking Heads retained and maintained artistic integrity, but sold enough records to establish and keep themselves in the public consciousness and charts. We can all name their biggest songs. They got to work with the business’s best, including Eno and Lee “Scratch” Perry, and create critically acclaimed masterpieces. If you needed to draft in legends from Funkadelic or Nigerian music to get the sound right, you could.

It was not all work. There was the opportunity to hang out, and get high with, the coolest people in the world. Mick Jagger might have been a little too high to interact fully with, but Sid Vicious was unexpectedly sympathetic, and John Martyn was expectedly an asshole. At least you knew personally. Later on, cool young people would be desperate to hang out with you. If you are Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth you would get to do all this with your soulmate and the love of your life. (All of this is well documented in Frantz’s memoir Remain in Love. Recommended.)

The lead singer might be a little, shall we say, self-absorbed. Of course, for an average band, between a third and a fifth of you are planning to be the lead singer, so you would regard your behaviour as an acceptable price for accommodating your genius. The rest of you, as talented and driven as you are, might have to suck it up a little. Your Wikipedia entry is much shorter than that of the lead. You can contemplate the injustice of it all as you take your ocean-going yacht down to your Bahamas holiday home and studio.

You can have side projects when the band is on hiatus. This might allow you to participate in an Oscar-winning soundtrack, or produce your biggest-ever hit records. You can be sought-after producers, further increasing your time in the Caribbean and your musical legacy. And at a certain point in your career you make the greatest concert movie of all time.

Stop Making Sense, directed by Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme, was released in 1984 when the band was at its creative, harmonious best. It is a work of art on several fronts, from the curation of the music from an emerging chrysalis to barnstorming romps, to the building of the set and band. It featured the iconic and meme-worthy “big suit,” which cemented the recording and band in the public consciousness. Forty years after its release, the film company A24 has polished up Stop Making Sense for a new generation, and now they’re celebrating further with the release of a new tribute album, Everybody’s Getting Involved. The range of moods, genres and languages on the album are a real testament to the influence that Talking Heads have.
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May 152024
 
cody jinks take this bottle cover

Faith No More were one of the most diverse alternative metal bands of the ’90s. Especially on their last two albums before they broke up, they include multiple songs that have nothing to do with metal, recording R&B and gospel songs, other other genres. One of those songs is the country ballad “Take This Bottle” from 1995’s King for a Day…Fool for a Lifetime.

If there’s a country singer who should cover a country song by a metal band, it’s Cody Jinks, who began his career performing in a metal band influenced by ’80s metal. This isn’t one of Faith No More’s better-known songs, so it probably helped that Jinks was familiar with the metal scene of the era. For this cover he’s joined by Meat Loaf’s adopted daughter (and Scott Ian’s wife) Pearl Aday to turn this into a duet. Continue reading »

May 152024
 
skylar grey linkin park

Composer and producer Tommee Profitt released his newest collection of covers, titled Volume 2. And featured inside this second collection of covers was Skylar Grey’s compelling version of Linkin Park’s “Numb”. Skylar Grey (AKA Holly Brook Hafermann) is a singer, and record producer from Wisconsin. Her vocal delivery in this tune is both chilling and epic. Continue reading »