This week’s playlist, which I’ve titled Misty Rosary, doesn’t have an organising theme like the other ones I’ve done recently, it’s just seventeen songs I really like right now. I hope you will too…
Misty Roses by The Zombies is a live performance from the Odessey And Oracle 40th Anniversary CD/DVD, and actually only features Colin Blunstone of the Zombies, plus touring band member Keith Airey and a string quintet, recreating the arrangement of the Tim Hardin song from Blunstone’s first solo album. One of the most gorgeous things ever in pop music, seriously.
Mr Bellamy by Paul McCartney is the best thing by a long way from his most recent solo album proper, Memory Almost Full, and the most interesting thing he’s done in a long time – it sounds like nothing so much as Sparks, but Sparks covering Love In The Open Air (the love theme from The Family Way, which McCartney wrote in 1965).
Guilty As Charged by John C Reilly is from the film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I was put off that film for a long time by its promotional material, which made it look like the kind of thing that Will Ferrel would be in, but in fact it’s a very sharp, funny film – a parody of rock biopics, but particularly Walk The Line. But the music’s what makes it – it has the best original soundtrack since A Mighty Wind. This one’s a spot-on Ring Of Fire Johnny Cash with a spot of Secret Agent Man thrown in. Reilly is a great vocalist – not just ‘for an actor’, he’s an astonishing singer by any standards – but what makes this soundtrack is the attention paid to production details. All the songs sound like they could have come from the time they’re set, and that’s a much harder thing to do than people realise.
Ionisation by Edgard Varese is a wonderful piece of atonal percussion music, hugely influential on everyone from Pierre Boulez to Frank Zappa. The present day composer refuses to die!
If I Could Have Her Tonight by Neil Young is from Young’s eponymous first solo album, still my favourite of all his albums. Back then, Young had quite an unusual sound, somewhere halfway between the psych-pop of Love and the country-pop of the Byrds or solo Mike Nesmith, and while much of his later stuff’s good, it’s less interesting than the music he was making then.
Tin Soldier by The Small Faces is possibly the best rock (as opposed to pop) single ever made. Everything about it – the dynamics, Steve Marriot’s vocal, those Jaws piano chords at the start, is about as perfect as it gets.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Serge Gainsbourg is a fairly straight rendition, but from an album, Rock Around The Bunker, which was pretty much what it sounds like…
Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me by Billie Holiday is a cover of the Duke Ellington song, originally titled Concerto For Cootie.
Take Me In Your Lifeboat by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band features Del McCoury and two of his sons, making it essentially a Del McCoury Band track. Which means it’s by some of the best bluegrass musicians today.
High Coin by Harpers Bizarre is written and arranged by Van Dyke Parks, in a very similar style to his work on Song Cycle (which I must write about at some point).
You Don’t Know Me by Ray Charles is from Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music vol 1 (my copy of which, bought second-hand, was the best 50p I ever spent). One of the greatest vocal performances of all time, this is one of a very small number of songs that can reduce me to tears.
Golden Days by William Grant Still is an excerpt from The American Scene, one of Still’s last major works. For those who don’t know him, Still was ‘the black Gershwin’, going from arranging for WC Handy and playing with James P Johnson to being the first African-American to conduct a symphony orchestra. He’s a sadly underrated figure in American music, and fans of Gershwin, Ives, Copeland et al could do worse than check out his stuff.
Another Time by Curt Boettcher is a lovely gentle soft-pop song. In the mid-60s a sort of informal collective of people centred round Boettcher and Gary Usher recorded about six albums worth of soft-pop stuff which mostly remained unreleased til the 90s, and has since been released on several different labels under several different names – the same tracks can be found as by Curt Boettcher and/or the Ballroom and/or The Millennium and/or Sandy Salisbury and/or Sagittarius, depending on the reissue. These are all worth getting, but the stuff released as by Boettcher or Salisbury solo tends to be the best.
Oh Bondage, Up Yours by X-Ray Specs is here for three reasons – firstly that there are too many slow songs in this list, secondly that there aren’t many women, and thirdly because it’s fucking great. “Some people think that little girls should be seen and not heard, but I say… OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS!”
Lyke-Wake Dirge by Pentangle is actually only my second-favourite version of this old song (after that by The Young Tradition), which is surprising because Pentangle were one of the most interesting bands of the late 60s, fusing traditional folk and modern jazz. It’s an old Yorkshire song to be sung at wakes, and the lyrics (which can be found here) talk about ordeals of purgatory, saying that after you’re dead you have to go through various trials, and will only have to protect you the things you gave to the poor in this life – you have to walk over thorns and can only wear shoes if you gave shoes to the poor, and so on. Quite an inspiring, hopeful but earthy take on things, as tends to be the way with Yorkshire religion.
You Set The Scene by Love is an alternative mix of the track from Forever Changes. The amount of invention in this song – the number of different melodies, and the strength of them – is astoundng. Just listen to the section starting ‘this is the time in life that I am living’ without shivers going down your spine. I DARE you.
And Rosary by Scott Walker is from Tilt, his ‘comeback’ album, and (along with his more recent The Drift and …And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And Who Shall Go To The Ball?) possibly the strangest records ever made by a major figure.