How to begin to explain the enigmatic giant that was Jackie Leven? Most reviews, in his life and beyond (he died in 2011), will comment on the mystery that he were not better known and better acclaimed. Uniformly lauded, somehow, possibly even deliberately, he remained so far under the radar as to be non-existent. Not that his talent, or he, were easy to hide, both being immense. If The Wanderer: A Tribute to Jackie Leven opens a few more ears to his music, it will have served a purpose, although I suspect it may more appeal to the already converted, a hard knit, hardcore bunch who talk in awe of his live performances. Please let me be wrong, and if, as you read this, you find yourself unfamiliar with the name, go seek him out. A retrospective collection also released recently, Straight Outta Caledonia, is as good a place to start as anywhere.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs.
Happy Birthday to Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, The Voice! Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this day in 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. America’s greatest entertainer, the most prolific of all time, made countless songs his own with his signature phrasing and style. But before his passing in 1998, how many songs did the quintessential cover artist actually write himself – not just perform? And of interest to Cover Me readers, which artists have successfully covered his songs?
Sinatra made his bones as an interpreter of other peoples’ songs. He was an artist, yes, but not the kind who labored over lyrics or composed the musical notes. A look through his vast catalog shows that he recorded nearly 1,000 different song titles with an additional 400-600 multiple recordings of the same title. A further look shows that only seven of those titles carry his name; always as a co-writer/contributor, none were penned by him alone. In a career that spanned over seven decades, those seven songs were written and originally recorded between 1941-1958 while Sinatra was between the ages of 26 and 43. In chronological order, here are the seven songs he helped write:
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Surely After the Gold Rush, this “uniformly dull” record, as Rolling Stone magazine put it at the time, is the peak of Neil Young’s output?
Yet somehow I always seem to forget it, tending to immediately opt for the feistier, zeitgeistier options of Zuma and Ragged Glory, and the civilians always go for the milquier toast of Harvest. But nowhere is there such simple beauty as on this 1970 record, his third solo album after leaving Buffalo Springfield. It captures most of Shakey’s tropes on one disc – his ragged guitar, his playing always suggesting playing in mittens if not boxing gloves, his delicate acoustic whimsy, and the left-field oddness, exemplified here by “Cripple Creek Ferry.” True, volume and feedback are restrained, maybe 8/10 rather than his later 11 (at least), and it’s possible that the record is even the better for that.
So when I do remember After the Gold Rush, when I come back to it, it astonishes. I can play it side to side (yes, of course vinyl) and be instantly transported to a teenage me, dreaming of a future I couldn’t ever quite picture (and indeed haven’t quite yet), all hopes and fears, intermingled with tears and joy.
To 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.
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
I guess I felt a little bad about by my recent damning by faint praise of Annie Lennox, so I’ve been feeling the need to redress with something topnotch. And I have it, with Relations, the 2004 LP by Kathryn Williams, silky-voiced folkish songstrel. I guess she isn’t well known outside her fan-base in the U.K., which is a shame because she damn well should be.