Saturday 29 August 2009

Here's Jo ...

There seems little excuse for any household not possessing a copy of the Dusty Springfield Live At The BBC DVD. But just in case there are any lapses that was the great lady referring to another great lady. The Jo Stafford version appeared on an LP of American Folk Songs which is incredibly beautiful. It also fits neatly in with the Folklore theme of the tenth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free in the library on your left). Among the songs perfectly performed by Jo, with Paul Weston's orchestral accompaniment, are Shenandoah, Barbara Allen and The Nightingale. A couple of the other selections, which are related to the remarkable John Jacob Niles, wander into the territory of are they traditional, are they adaptations, appropriations, and does it really matter? These include the ballad Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair. There have been many lovely versions of this song, but this is a particular favourite.

It seems absurd to make a case for Jo Stafford as an overlooked singer because in her time she was spectacularly successful. And wonderfully defied categorisation in those post-WW2 pre-rock 'n' roll years. She seems to have been particularly strong-minded too. Sadly little survives of the TV shows she hosted in the UK in the early '60s but this is an intriguing glimpse at the sort of strong supporting cast she attracted.

Unless I'm missing something not even our old reliable YouTube resource has many clips of Jo in performance but this one is pretty special. So here's Jo ...

Wednesday 26 August 2009

A Shade of Difference

Aha. Postcard Records related cuttings. That'll grab their attention won't it? They'll all be downloading that folder. And there'll be some new visitors. Kindred spirits new to the fold. They'll know what was meant about Postcard and its world view being the catalyst that sparked a unrelenting passion for seeking out less familiar corners of the musical universe. And thus that particular post being in the proximity of ones relating to Antonio Adolfo and Arthur Verocai, Brazilian musical magicians, then they'll soon be downloading the lovingly put together mixes relating to those two maestros. I mean that's much more in keeping with the spirit of Postcard than ... well, don't start me on that one.

Anyway, Folklore, the tenth issue of Your Heart Out, which our corporate sponsors say can be downloaded free for all in the legendary library on the left, starts out with a couple of pages relating to Helen Merrill, who has been dominating the archaic music players chez nous. If as is suggested Postcard, or more precisely its patron saint Vic Godard, did stimulate an interest in vocal jazz, then I am eternally grateful that this road led me to Helen. She has made numerous exceptionally beautiful records. Sets in the mid-'50s with Clifford Brown, Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, and Bill Evans. Wonderful sets in the '60s with Dick Katz. And the brilliant turn of the millennium Jelena Ana Milcetic as she entered her 70s. And my particular favourite which is The Artistry Of ... where ballads are delivered in a strikingly stark folk-like setting.

There is a small selection of some of Helen Merrill's most wonderful recordings here, which I have no doubt will prove as popular as the Postcard cuttings. Missing from the mix are tracks from Helen's early '60s Italian recordings with Piero Umiliani, but then I refuse to believe that people haven't read Your Heart Out and rushed out to buy a copy of Parole e Musica. But just in case you need a prompt ...

Sunday 23 August 2009

The Sound of Young Scotland - The Face archives

Before we delve deep into the contents of Folklore, the tenth issue of Your Heart Out, here's some background colour courtesy of our comrade PC. It's an archive of cuttings from The Face relating to Postcard Records, The Sound of Young Scotland, its satellites, tributaries and repercussions.
There are a number of reasons I begged PC to allow us to include this archive in our library. One is that the archive is a quite valuable part of pop history, shedding as it does light on some overlooked corners of familiar rooms. Among the many things the archive proves is that the 'official' post-punk/new pop histories that established this hegemony of Morley/Savage/Penman are so wrong.

Secondly, on a personal level, my teenage self knew many of these articles pretty much off by heart. And many is the time I have regretted losing my back numbers of The Face. Seeing these cuttings again is quite eerie, and a little like having one's own youth revalidated and restored to life.

Thirdly, in these cuttings you see the seeds of Your Heart Out, and how beyond punk an interest in jazz, folk, bossa, to add to the soul and funk and reggae, may have been propogated. Not just that. In Postcard's contrariness lay the inspiration to challenge orthodoxies. Some things you can't give up!

I have no idea about what happened to Glenn Gibson, or many of the writers who helped shape me (Dave McCullough, Chris Westwood, Chris Burkham, Leila Sanai, etc ...) but here's a toast to them. And to PC. We owe him. So I suggest a quick visit to his Sad Gnome home and supporting the splendid Remodel.

Friday 21 August 2009

YHO 10 - Folklore

Into double figures already (you mean readers? Oh behave ...). The tenth issue of Your Heart Out is now available to download for free. Affectionately known by the codename: Folklore. That's folklore as in the study of traditional beliefs or at least beliefs popularly held. That's folklore as in new perspectives, invectives and necessary mischief. Or to put it in more conventional terms, the new issue features Postcard's last stand, UK hip hop's winning hand, folk, blues, bossa and beyond ...

The front cover is a still of rapper Wildflower from the video for Domestic Science by Skitz. The back cover is a shot of Vic Godard from his performance at London's Town & Country Club, September 1992.

And between the covers? Well, in a climate where culturally the shutters have come down, and accepted truths remain accepted truths, hopefully YHO has a role to play in shaking things up a little. So please spread the word, before they run us in.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Viva Verocai

Before we bid an emotional farewell to the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which, cue fanfare and flashing lights, can be downloaded for free in the library on your left) we must mention Arthur Verocai, whose work is mentioned with reference to Far Out records. What I hadn't realised was that Arthur's classic early '70s LP (and you must buy this ... trust me) was performed live in LA earlier this year. And judging by the clips on YouTube it was a pretty special occasion. Here's a sample ...

In the ninth YHO there is mention too of the special music that an interest in Arthur Verocai had led us to. With the best will in the world there's not much in terms of information to add, so let's allow the music to do the talking. There are wonderful Verocai-related tracks here by Anamaria & Mauricio, Celia, Eduardo Conde, O Terco, Karma, Hareton Savanini and Gal Costa. Beautiful, uplifting sounds. So grab this mix. And as a treat here's a bit more Gal Costa ...

Sunday 16 August 2009

A date with destiny ...

One of the main themes of the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (downloadable for free in the library on the left ...) would be independent labels. There was an attempt to glimpse past the curtain of punk and the myths that are propagated to different times and different places. There was quite a bit related to Bob Thiele, and I suppose it was painfully obvious that I’d been reading Bob Thiele’s autobiography and the Impulse Records story. Fair enough. Thiele was quite a character, and has some great tales to tell.
Issue 9 also touched upon The Numero Group and the important salvage work it’s been doing with its Eccentric Soul series, highlighting the role of small and local labels in the development of soul and funk. Then looking toward the present day there would be a tip of the hat to the labels that fight their corner in a changing consumer climate.
Far Out was a label highlighted, and readers were pointed in the direction of its recent release of Joyce’s Visions of Dawn, a beautiful set salvaged from 1975. Other Far Out releases by Arthur Verocai and Antonio Adolfo are also heartily recommended. I have to say that when I bought Antonio Adolfo’s Destiny I didn’t know much about his music or his story. But that’s the beauty of labels like Far Out, the role of signpost, directing people to sounds not generally known.
In the same way that a Far Out Milton Nascimento salvage operation sent me scurrying in search of more of Milton’s angelic output, so similarly I went in search of the Antonio Adolfo e Brazuca recordings referenced on Destiny. Some will know these beautiful recordings better than me. For others, there is a real treat in store. If you have any interest in Brazilian music of the late ‘60s into the early ‘70s, post-bossa, post-tropicalia, then this will be for you. Choral vocal arrangements, funky Fender Rhodes, and all that. So here’s a selection of tracks from Antonio Adolfo e Brazuca. With love.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Abbey is blue ...

I’ve finally managed to get a copy of Iain Sinclair’s Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire out of the local library, and am very much looking forward to settling down for a good old read. One way and another totally unintentionally Sinclair seems to haunt the pages of Your Heart Out, and his notion of disappearances and being reforgotten was very much a part of the ninth issue (which, oh yus, you can download for free in the library on the left).

One of the things about disappearances that fascinates me is being able to stop what you’re doing and vanishing from that scene. For ‘collectors’ like Sinclair (and me? Yup ...) that might be hard. It’s difficult to imagine Sinclair shutting up shop. But some cease and several of the stars of our ninth issue did just that, even if it was only for a while.

Among those would be Abbey Lincoln. If you have seen the preceding post you will be aware of her astonishing performances on We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite. She would at the start of the ‘60s also appear on Percussion Bitter Suite and It’s Time, the other parts of that remarkable Roach holy trinity of records. And then there were her own essential Abbey Is Blue and Straight Ahead sets. But, after that, apart from those live appearances with Max’s outfit, she would not record for another decade or so. Intriguing.

She didn’t disappear completely. She got more involved with acting. Starred with Sidney Poitier in For The Love of Ivy. Starred in Nothing But A Man, with its Motown soundtrack. Then when Abbey did reappear in a musical context it would be in 1973 when she released the fantastic People In Me set. A few songs are available for you here as an inducement to track it down. It’s such a wonderfully inventive and uncompromising set, which avoids the full-on fusion pitfalls of the time, and includes Abbey’s adaptations of numbers by John Coltrane and Max Roach. One of her compositions, Living Room, would later be covered by YHO idol Mark Murphy.

Abbey has continued to perform and record, and to illustrate that here’s a much more recent reworking of People In Me which you sense should be compulsory viewing in every classroom around the world ...

Saturday 8 August 2009

We Insist!

I’ll tell you why I do this, and why I’ll keep on doing this. It’s about coming across things, being stopped in your tracks and shaken to the core and so excited and enthusiastic that you want to tell the world but then think ‘ang on a moment why isn’t everyone else going on about ... I’ll give you an example. I’ve just finished reading a book I borrowed from the local library, The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield, the final part of the A Horseman Riding By trilogy. Bawling my eyes out at the end I was, manfully pretending there was something in my eye, honest. I recently read his cracking crime caper, Come Home Charlie And Face Them. Borrowed that from the library too. Fantastic stuff. But when was the last time someone sidled up to you and suggested reading some Delderfield? Quite.
R.F. Delderfield did get a passing mention in the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free here). But there was a lot more about Abbey Lincoln, a particular favourite of ours. Now, I do have to confess to having a real soft spot for the film The Girl Can’t Help It. Love all the old rock ‘n’ roll stuff, and Julie London singing Cry Me A River, and can’t resist Abbey Lincoln’s cameo. Yet I can fully understand why she was uncomfortable about being poured into that red gown, and all power to her for the way she had the courage to resist that stereotyping and gradually change the way she performed so that within a few years she was working with Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jr, giving her all singing on We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite which harnesses all the power of and purposefulness of the civil rights movement, and Abbey certainly scorches the earth and the roots with her extraordinary execution.
I have loved that record for some time now, but it is only recently that I have discovered on YouTube the presence of a surprising number of pieces of footage of Abbey performing songs from We Insist! The Max Roach outfit seems to have made a number of European TV appearances in the early ‘60s and the intensity and grace of these can still make the viewer sit up with a jolt every time they are viewed. I wonder if this time next year we’ll be celebrating the fact that it’ll be 50 years since We Insist! was recorded with quite the same vigour that twenty tedious years of the Stone Roses have been thrust upon us.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Freefalling ...

Ok. Collywobbles under control, and normal service resumed. The ninth issue of Your Heart Out had a bit of a jazz theme that was introduced via the great actress Ida Lupino which was the name of a Carla Bley composition beautifully recorded by Paul Bley on his Closer LP. Confessing that I'm not the world's leading authority on Carla Bley's work this led quite nicely onto Carla's work with Charlie Haden on the Liberation Music Orchestra record put out by Impulse at the end of the '60s.

It's a record I first came across as part of that life-changing series of Impulse reissues in the '90s. The Liberation Music Orchestra record is a particular favourite, capturing the protest or rebel tradition perfectly, veering from the austere beauty of Song For Che, which Robert Wyatt fans should be aware of, to the oh dare I say the wonderful cacophony of the suite of Spanish Civil War songs . Haden took the Spanish Civil War thing seriously during the recording, even inviting surviving members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to be present during the sessions.

This kind of led on to some thoughts about the nature of free jazz and improvisation, and the Jimmy Giuffre 3 LP Free Fall (featuring Paul Bley) which has developed into being one of my all-time favourites but it takes some getting used to but that's the beauty of it I guess. Anyway, by coincidence the other day scratching around for connections, following up leads, I came across this clip of an earlier incarnation of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 featuring the great Jim Hall on guitar. It's just so beautiful and you can lose yourself in it ...

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Throwing logic out of the window

Up until now this blog has been pretty structured. An edition of Your Heart Out is put together. You are encouraged to visit the library on your left and download it for free, print it out, put it in your duffel bag and head out to your favourite cafe or park for a good old read. Then between issues certain themes in the latest edition would be examined in a slightly different way, with a bit of a musical or visual bonus. But that's worried me for a while. Is it patronising? Can't people go off and do their own exploring? Do they need everything on a plate, spelled out? This ain't alphabetti spaghetti. And the handful of people who read this know more than me anyway.

And then a little while ago, to help spread the good word, I gave in and joined Facebook. Oh boy, that's a strange old place. It's a bit like being in a shooting gallery or something. Things come flying atcha like mad. One of the things the technology allows is the sharing of YouTube clips, and they come thick and fast. Sometimes you think, what the heck do we want to see that rubbish for. Sometime you think, wahey, I'll have me some of that. But my memory is rubbish, and there's too many things on the go. And yet you can understand the urge to share. That was after all what the printed word version of Your Heart Out was all about.

So, throwing logic to the wind, and for no reason other than the fact that it made me smile on a soggy day in London Town, here's the very great Johnny Nash ...

Saturday 1 August 2009

The Point of Perfection

A commercial break. Our comrade in arms over at the Fruitier Than Thou blog has posted a recording of Hurrah! live at Keele University, in November 1983, when their shows were often akin to religious revival meetings, and it wasn't unusual for audiences to be so fired up after their performances that they would take to the streets and march under a red banner to the local citadel of civic corruption or perhaps the local radio station and overthrow the fakers or words to that effect. Of course the authorities soon clamped down on such proceedings and Hurrah! and their followers had to disappear underground and regroup on the quiet, live surreptitiously as sleepers, waiting for the day when the revolution would arrive, and the insurgents would be awakened with the code word: Keele ... Well, that's what it sounded like.