Thursday, 31 December 2009

Off The Bone - Review

The antidote to Eva Cassidy is perhaps The Cramps and their 1983 compilation Off The Bone. Wikipedia tells me that Sounds said of it, “a hell-fire cocktail of gutter riffing and chattering Rockabilly voodoo strum into which is dropped an electric sugar cube of psychedelic power”.

A bit of a mouthful and probably sums it up better than I could. As far as morning commutes go, due to it being Christmas and all I thought I would sample the motorway as opposed to my normal route of taking in Staffordshire A roads. The M6 was relatively deserted and Lux Interior was spewing forth his hell fire cocktail on the stereo, the day could only get worse.

As I said this is a compilation and it’s a compilation at times of their finest work, you have Interior doing his best Peggy Lee impression on Fever and his worst Ricky Nelson impression on Lonesome Town.

As well as standards such as Surfin Bird, they inject their own standards and classics into proceedings. This compilation gives us Human Fly, part of their debut release Gravest Hits. The other tracks on Gravest Hits are all represented here, as are a number of tracks from Psychedelic Jungle, the most famous being Goo Goo Muck.

All in all it’s a good strong compilation, that lifted the mood from yesterday, actually the mood for the last few CD’s has been resolutely downbeat and I hope this is the shape of Cramps to come.
8 out of 10.

Human Fly by The Cramps.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Songbird - Review

I had a break from my CD albums over the Christmas period, it has re-commenced now though and I wonder as I write this, do I go with a revisionist version or the truth?
You see the revisionist version would say that today’s CD, Songbird by Eva Cassidy was an ill informed gift, or even an album that I bought in the 90’s as I was aware of the Washington DC underground music scene. That’s the revisionist version of events.
What actually happened was I heard a song of hers, lets say for arguments sake it was fields of gold, in 2001 and I bought the CD. I will be blunt with you here, my wife actually muttered the words, “I fucking despair”, she may have followed this up with her palm going to her forehead. She despaired OK.

You see I hate Sting, I hate that smug look he presents, I hate the work he did with The Police, his solo rubbish, this medieval nonsense that is on TV over the Christmas period, I hate him, his wife and possibly all the Stinglets that him and the obnoxious Trudy Styler have produced. Now if I hate him so much, and his music, I reiterate, I hate the man and his music, but if I hate him so much why did I buy this disc purely off the back of that song?

Mind mojo.

Purely and simply, mind mojo. Someone, possibly Terry Wogan, Terry Wogan in cahoots with the spirit of Eva Cassidy and in all likelihood Sting performed mind mojo and this mind mojo made me skip past Rock/Pop in me local virgin and settle upon Easy Listening, it was further mind mojo that made me pick up Songbird and pay £10 or a figure in the region of, and further more, the final bit of mind mojo made me play it. Bastard Wogan and his mind mojo.

So what of the album? God its sentimental, yes she died, and you cant speak ill of the dead, and I wont, that much. Really though would this collection of covers have made it out of the small clubs of Washington DC with the X Factor style story attached? They aren’t even good covers. They are light jazz covers designed to tug at heart strings. If you lean in close, and turn the volume up you can hear the chink of glasses and the distant cry of scampi for table 13.

She delivers the previously discussed Fields of Gold, but also Songbird and Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Beautiful songs that they are it all seems a little too, whats the word? Poignant? A false sense of poignancy?

Anyway, none of this is Cassidys fault, her physical being didn’t enter in to this pact with Wogan and his mind mojo so I really should be too critical for the recorded output. That all said I may give this to my mum, she would like it. 3 out of 10.

People Get Ready by Eva Cassidy

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Stack O' Cash

After being deep into the Johnny Cash section of my CD albums, its perhaps became apparent that I hold the man in rather high esteem. I would say that I had never heard a Johnny Cash song that I didn’t love completely, but also with the wealth of material that he produced when I do hear something new for the first time, it reminds me why I love his work so much.
If you had to pin me down though, across a career that spans 50 years, what is the best? What releases surpass all of the other wonderful and great songs.
Now the thing with me is that I love it all, I love the hymns, the songs about native Americans, the songs about soldiers, murder, everything. That in mind of everything here is what I consider to be the very best.

Far Side Banks of Jordan

Ah this gorgeous cut from a June Carter Cash album, 1999’s Press On. She was 70 when she recorded that. Resurfacing on Johnny’s Duets album. This, most days, is my absolute favourite. More poignant when you listen to it and know that Johnny died 5 months after June in 2003. A similar tone explored on his cover of Hank Williams’ On The Evening Train. That a journey is coming to an end, but the belief that when it does end, one or the other will be waiting.

If It Proves To Be His Will That I Am First To Cross
And Somehow I've A Feeling It Will Be
When It Comes Your Turn To Travel Likewise Don't Feel Lost
For I Will Be The First One That You'll See

And I'll Be Waiting On The Far Side Banks Of Jordan
I'll Be Sitting Drawing Pictures In The Sand
And When I See You Coming I Will Rise Up With A Shout
And Come Running Through The Shallow Water Reaching For Your Hand

As I said all the more poignant that John would follow June so swiftly.

Delia’s Gone

Delias Gone was from Johnny’s American period, when his career it seemed was in a bit of a lull, American signed him and opened up a new creative period and indeed gave him to a whole new fanbase. This was a period that spawned his take on Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, his cover of Soundgardens Rusty Cage and amongst a rich vein of covers and originals was this track, Delia’s Gone. Delia’s Gone was the track that made me think that this period Cash wasn’t so bad after all, it was not until this track that I fell for this period Johnny. I was suspicious of Rick Rubin and his motives, I still am to a degree, more so with Neil Diamond, is he really a fan? I don’t know. But Delia’s Gone, it’s a simple acoustic number originally released on 1962’s The Sound Of Johnny Cash but the version I love is the version that appeared on 1994 American Recordings. Its just a stunning and simple song, beautiful.

The Beast In Me

The Beast In Me also appeared on the American Recordings album, this is a song written by Johnny Cash’s son in law Nick Lowe. Lowe released it on his Impossible Bird album and I can’t comment on the original yet, as of today I haven’t heard it. I suspect that will change pretty soon. Johnny’s version is a menacing song though, one that doesn’t threaten with words, but with a glance or peering over glasses. It’s a song that sends shivers up your spine truly, and a million miles from A Boy Named Sue, but a bedfellow for the other tracks on the American Recordings album written by people such as Glenn Danzig and Tom Waits. This is as light as it will get. The Beast In Me is perfection though, its amongst his very best, easily.

Peace In The Valley

I have this thing for June Carter Cash’s voice, she really has the most beautiful angelic voice you will ever hear, from her time as a youngster right up until her later years prior to her death, no ones voice is like June Carter’s and no voice betters it. On Peace In The Valley, like all of the spiritual songs June contributed to her voice on is just so important to the whole feel and sound of the song. She transcends backing vocalist and makes herself integral to the whole piece. Peace In the Valley as a song by itself is amazing, add June Carters vocals to that mix and its difficult to beat.


Which brings us neatly to Jackson. If ever there was a song that associated June and Johnny as a couple then it has to be Jackson. To my mind their most famous song, barring Ring Of Fire. Opening a song with the line, “We got married in a fever”, it just paints the urgency of the start of the relationship so well, and to enforce that “hotter than a peppered sprout”, but then it tells of the fire in the relationship going out. Jackson will show them delights, but sadly not with each other.
This isn’t a Johnny Cash song, Jerry Lieber wrote it, but Cash truly made it is own, the plethora, the many many covers that have been made of it, really are a cover of Cash and not I suspect of the version that appeared on co-writer, Billy Edd Wheeler’s album.
Jackson delights me everytime I hear it, be it by Johnny Cash, be it by Brakes, be it The Pleasure Barons, all versions are fantastic, but it is Johnny and June singing this song together which is by far the best.

I Still Miss Someone

Ah I Still Miss Someone, a Cash penned song composed in collaboration with Roy Cash, Johnny Cash’s nephew. Roy Cash is also the father of Carey Cash, President Obama’s pastor. As for his contribution to this song, Roy Cash that is, I don’t know, he gets a writing credit so I assume he had some input and not hopefully, change a word, claim a third.
I Still Miss Someone is up there as my favourite of Johnny’s romantic songs and it’s a beauty I return to a lot, foisting it on my uninterested wife whenever possible, I suspect I could play it to her today and she would claim that she has never heard it. I Still Miss Someone should be a bona fide classic but I think its not particularly well known. It is beautiful though, a gorgeous song that has been covered numerous times, as is the case again with this, it is the Cash version that surpasses all others.

Girl From The North Country

Ah Girl From The North Country. This is a song that appeared on the Dylan album, Nashville Skyline, the best Dylan album by a considerable chalk and the version that appeared on that album sees Dylan and Cash duet on this song. They also duetted on I Still Miss Someone during those sessions, whereas this track benefits from Cash’s gravelly vocals, I Still Miss Someone loses something with the addition of Dylan. That all said this is a fine Dylan track that gives and gives, it oddly reminds me, for reasons I cannot fathom, of Lambchops, The Man Who Loved Beer. I have no clue why. This song though is beautiful in every aspect, Dylan lets us in and lets us know about this girl, confides in us. Dylan is astonishingly honest in this song and I don’t think he betters it.
It has been covered many many times but the version for me is the one that he performed with Cash. Stunning.

(I'm Proud) The Baby is Mine

When my good lady has had a little too much wine, this song always springs to mind, (I'm Proud) The Baby is Mine tell us listeners of a lady, who perhaps may not be quite as classy as other women, but heck JR is proud she is his. I adore this song, I love everything about it, it tells you something about love, about how its easy to love someone demure and dignified, but when that gal is flat on her ass, that’s real love. Maybe not but for some reason I hold this song in extremely high regard. I have it as a bonus track on the incredible Orange Blossom Special, another reason why that album is so great.

When It’s Springtime In Alaska

This is a song that not only popped up a considerable amount when I was listening to Johnny Cash as part of my commute CD journey, but it’s a song that my iPod and its randomness seems to settle on at least once in fifty times. I don’t mind this as I consider this to be one of the most special Cash songs he ever committed to tape. The bonus is that it features the perfect vocals of June Carter Cash. Again this is another track from Orange Blossom special.
The tale, as is often the case of someone wronging Big Ed and suffering the consequences.

I was as innocent as I could be
I didn't know Lil was big Ed's wife to be
He took out his knife and he gave it a throw
When it's springtime in Alaska I'll be six feet below

Folsom Prison Blues

Folsom Prison Blues, from Cash’s Sun Records period and as spitting and as angry as you will get, bitterness, jealousy and very nearly hate. That’s what prison will do to a man. Cash said of the line, “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”, "I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that's what came to mind." That sums up the whole tone of the song, but that line, perhaps is Johnny Cash defining line. Amazing. An amazing song.

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord

Finally to this, today, its his best work, today. It’s a traditional song, a hymn that owes a debt to June Carter, her vocals on this surpass anything at all I have heard and this song just keeps on improving, it is a career highlight for them both and the point where June's vocals come in makes you think, music really doesn’t get any better than that.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Best Of The Year?

So the year ends and with the year ending and this being a music blog it is time to look back on the best albums of the year.
Last year if memory serves me I found very little new music much cop, and I think its a similar tale this year, but not particularly out and out bad, music it seems in 2009 is in a better state than it was in 2008, but only marginally.

A band that I did enjoy in 2009, both live and on CD was the second album by Portland band, Hockey, Mind Chaos. I do not like this eighties sound that so many artists are adopting, the eighties were a musical desert and it isn't something that I need to revisit, but Hockey take the best bits of that decade and open a party 7, both live and recorded. On Mind Chaos they prove that the single Song Away wasn't a fluke and produce a remarkably good album. Its new wave with elements of mental as anything, that sounds an awful combination but if any track appeared on the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop it wouldnt seem out of place. Please dont let that put you off.

Song Away by Hockey

Another favourite album was NOFX's Coaster. Their 11th album and one of their strongest, varying between the knock about fun that they are known for on Creeping Out Sara, to more considered and darker material on My Orphan Year. It is perhaps my favourite album of the year all told and re-affirmed my love for all things NOFX, where as there has been a recent glut of Johnny Cash albums on my morning commute, when I get to the N's it is a huge NOFX section. This album though is text book NOFX and thats how I like it.

My Orphan Year by NOFX

Finally Sign No More by Mumford and Sons, a post by Kev made me investigate this album and after much malignment by the current Mrs D it turned out to be an album that soundtracked my work, as the commute was took up by the commute CD's. The Mumford and Sons album reminded me in parts of The Mystery Jets, in part of Arcade Fire but all in all a sound of their own, marvellous stuff.

Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons

Zooey Deschanel

The actress Zooey Deschanel has always had a place in my heart for many different reasons. I first saw her in the Will Ferrell film Elf and my immediate thoughts outside of THAT is the next Mrs D, was blimey that girl can sing. In Elf she gives a beautiful rendition of Baby It's Cold Outside.

That was the first time that I came across her as an actress but also realised that she had a beautiful effortless voice.

She also displayed her voice, in a different fashion in the Jim Carrey film, Yes Man. Below is Sweet Ballad by her band in the film, Munchausen By Proxy. Again this demonstrates her voice above everything else. The band backing Zooey are San Franciscan band, Von Iva, an underrated band in their own right.

This Christmas, as I am a sucker for anything Deschanel I watched her 2007 film Bridge to Terabithia, her performance as ever was perfect, but fleetingly in the film was her take on the excellent Someday, the Steve Earle song, alas it is all too fleeting in the film, but so fitting. A real high point of the film.

Finally we come to She and Him, the fully fledged band of Zooey Deschanel and M Ward. They released one of my favourite albums of 2008 in Volume One an album of mainly original songs penned by Deschanel but also augmented by the near perfect covers of You Really Got A Hold On Me and The Beatles' I Should Have Known Better. It really was a musical high point of 2008 and the follow up, Volume Two is due to be released in 2010 and I suspect it will be even better.

Here is the fantastic Sentimental Heart from She and Him's debut.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Let’s Get Out Of This Country

Imagine a Cashless society? Nah nor me, but it wasn’t Johnny Cash today soundtracking my commute, it was Camera Obscura. Scottish indie band of note.
Years ago I heard Eighties Fan by Camera Obscura, its pounding Motown drums reminded me of Hefner’s Antony Harding drumming and Eighties Fan being a splendid single I purchased the 7” and the album that single came from. Forward wind a few years and my wife buys me a desk calendar that recommends an MP3 a day, and one of those MP3’s was a Camera Obscura single, Hey Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken, the single from Camera Obscura’s third album, Let’s Get Out Of This Country, that’s todays album, an album that has been played more than just about anything else that’s not released by Hefner, Tenacious D or NOFX. I like this album, a lot.
Camera Obscura are a Scottish band led by Traceyanne Campbell, with this album they released an album consisting of ten of the finest songs from north of the border and perhaps ten of the finest songs full stop. Breathtaking at times, unusual, odd, uncomfortable, but always beautiful. They mix those Motown drums with atmospheric vocals and a sad tone, but literally and lyrically.
This album slowly made its way from being good, to very good to even now one of my very favourite albums. Country Mile appeared on a Tesco ad, but you cant hold that against it, it’s a very good song and I immediately wanted to buy some reasonably priced clothes after seeing the ad. They also do a song about Andre Previns ex wife, Dory Previn, as yet no urge to buy reasonably priced clothes.
Anyway, Let’s Get Out Of This Country, a stunning album, one of the best, 10 out of 10.

Country Mile by Camera Obscura

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Johnny Cash American Legend

Another brief one I am afraid, Christmas and all that has meant that if I am not listening to a CD on my commute I am either wrapping presents, roasting chestnuts (on an open fire), cursing the long hairs on the MTV or wondering when I am going to do the big shop. Its these things that limit the time that I can wax about the commute CD.
The Johnny Cash fortnight, for you at least mercifully draws to a close. Its been rather marvellous for me, as well as todays discs I know I have almost the same boxset coming up in a week or two, if it is the same content I may skip it, we will see. Also by the stereo I have further Cash discs that will turn up in a year or two when I have completed the upstairs CD’s.
So to todays disc, it’s a 3 disc boxset, Johnny Cash American Legend. A £3 boxset licensed from Charly and released by a German company. Its is in its essence, the Sun recordings with some live tracks thrown in for good measure.
The Sun recordings are as to be expected, excellent in every possible way. The live tracks are possibly why I bought this, live versions of Jackson, Orange Blossom Special and in particular the fantastic If I Were A Carpenter, featuring June Carter Cash. As time goes on I wonder if I should try and but Junes solo output, at the moment I have all of Johnnys on MP3, some on vinyl but slowly I am buying it all on CD, Santa I suspect will get the next one or two on my wishlist, but I think I really need to hear what June could do as a solo singer, what a voice.
I said it would be brief and I am afraid it is, very brief. This boxset is a gem, a real find, I think I have the complete Sun Recordings and I will give more detail when that gets played, in the meantime, as ever Johnny Cash American Legend 10 out of 10.

If I Were A Carpenter by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

Edit. 9th January 2010. I had the other boxset yesterday, it was the same one all told, its still a ten though.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

One Man Band

As the blurb says, ''This blog is a collaboration between Peter D and Kevin T .........'' although lately it is only Peter who has been keeping his end up. A combination of factors have combined to keep me away from our beloved blog, and it's Peter, liberally sprinkling ten out of tens to Johnny Cash, who is marching on with his alphabetical trawl through his entire CD collection. I do sometimes fear for his sanity, although he appears to have the stamina of a pack horse, musically speaking of course.

Peter's comments on the Rage Against the Machine v some little lad who can hold a tune and won a talent contest on the telly, for Christmas number one, makes interesting reading. I would have trouble explaining this anti - X Factor Britain's got Idol Celebrity Squares response to people here in Chile, as firstly I don't know the Spanish for 'Rage', and secondly nobody buys singles. Personally, I would like to see RATM at number one in the UK for Christmas. I think that would be splendid. They are rich, and are shouty, which often is not a great combination (small, shouty and rich would be a worse combination, or possibly small, shouty, rich and French would be really bad), although they do seem to back up their beliefs with action, particularly de la Rocha and his involvement with the EZLN in Mexico. I know this might upset Peter on Christmas day, possibly even causing him some mild heartburn, or a shaky hand for his 10am sherry, but Simon Cowell represents to me something far more evil than the hijacking of the nonsense of the UK top 40 - namely, how can you get so rich and famous by being mean?

It sounds like a simpleton statement, and don't get me wrong as there is always a place for mean, but Cowell has polished the meanness, dishes it out tactlessly, and cannot walk the talk. Of course, there are great football managers who never kicked a ball, military strategists who don't know one end of a rifle from the other, and so on. But Cowell is not in the same category as a tactical genius. He may well give a platform to people who deserve a chance at success, but he has institutionalised being nasty and turned it into acceptable TV viewing, as well as going on to often stifle the artists he seemingly champions. Someone in his position won't be bothered by an internet campaign to stifle his latest million making plaything, but 'Fuck you I won't do what you tell me' would be a healthy response to his dumbing down of talent and over-simplistic approach to people expressing themselves through music.

The Fabulous Johnny Cash / Songs Of Our Soil

The Johnny Cash commute fortnight is coming to a close, still not quite there but close enough. Today was a double album set of his third album, The Fabulous Johnny Cash and his sixth album, Songs Of Our Soil.
The first of the albums, The Fabulous Johnny Cash amongst its grooves features the now perennial I Still Miss Someone, I suspect this may be the first recording it appeared on, I would have to check that though. Johnny also gives his version of Frankie and Johnny, and a fine version it is too.
This Columbia album if anything went against it, it is perhaps that there are so few Johnny Cash penned songs on it, I Still Miss Someone, Run Softly Blue River, Pickin Time and the original version of Don’t Take Your Guns To Town. The latter is a fantastic measured performance with pauses in all of the right places, a far far superior version to the rerecorded versions from his later career.
Of the covers Shepherd of My Heart is a stand out track, Jenny Lou Carson penned the original and it is one that I will have to track down, here it in its correct context.
All in all, The Fabulous Johnny Cash, is fabulous. 10 out of 10.

Don’t Take Your Guns To Town by Johnny Cash

Song of Our Soil as I said was Johnny’s sixth album and a bit of a treat over all. The songs are taking a much darker tone that would remain throughout his career, indeed most of the songs tackle death in one capacity or another.
For the most part Johnny writes the songs, and a few greats show their faces for the first time, notably Five Feet High And Rising however the highlight for me is a track that also appears on the God compilation, The Great Speckled Bird, a song covered since by Lucinda Williams. A song that I am currently loving.
Songs Of Our Soil also has Cash singing the traditional song, My Grandfathers Clock, a song that I recall singing at junior school, if only I knew Cash had done it I may have been able to incorporate Cash’s growl into my rendition as a 10 year old. Finally this album also features the traditional song I Want To Go Home, or as it is more well known, Sloop John B. A better version. Songs Of Our Soil, 10 out of 10.

I Want to Go Home by Johnny Cash

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Johnny Cash The Mercury Years

A hurried review tonight, very hurried. Enough to say its great, it features duets with people like the fantastic Tom T Hall, and John Cash Jr.
10 out of 10.

Thats a bit too hurried though, but that's the long and short of it, its an album that draws on the best efforts of his Mercury Records output, an over looked period that covers the eighties and very early nineties. Johnny is starting to feel his age and you hear it in his voice. A little more weary, a little more considered, yes it has an eighties Nashville sheen but under all that is Johnny.

Johnny goes back to Don't Take Your Guns To Town, and covers his own song reasonably faithfully, as well as his interpretation of Sixteen Tons. The highlight is the rather jokey Backstage Pass.

Still 10 out of 10.

A Backstage Pass by Johnny Cash

Everybody In The Club

Joey and David from the Pixies, you know the one at the back and the one on the left of the stage. Joey Santiago and David Lovering have released an album together under the name The Everybody. A track came out free for download earlier this year and it was all very pleasant.
They have followed up that track by releasing their debut album. It doesn’t stop there though, they are encouraging people to buy it, remix it, flog it and if you are especially good you can appear on The Everybody Else album released next year. Sounds like a win win situation, have an album, potentially work with half of the Pixies. Boo yah!
Anyhow you need to get along to their website

Which side Are You On?

The X Factor has finished with professional cherubic Geordie, Joe McEldrey reaping the spoils. His rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing may have been the deciding factor, or the fact that every judge praised him over all others for the past 12 weeks. He was technically very good though, he performed songs like they should be performed on a West End Stage and he did seem a rather pleasant young man, even with his head constantly cocked to one side. It is all done now and at least I no longer have to listen to other professional Geordie, Cheryl Cole saying week in, week out, “You’re a right little popstar”.

There is an internet campaign (they are always internet campaigns aren’t they, never proper marching campaigns trying to save whales or disarm the nuclears) at the moment hoping to rain on X Factor Uber Fuhrer, Simon Cowells parade and install shouty rich kids Rage Against The Machine as number one. Cowell took time off from planning his triumphant move into Poland to issue a statement “Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future.” He went on to say that he thought that a group of spotty kids dicking about on Facebook was a bit nasty and it was the Geordie wonderkids god given right to install himself at the number one spot over the festive period with a Hannah Montana cover. Cowell then muttered something about the final solution before fielding calls from people that had performing dogs.

I kind of lie somewhere in the Cowell camp, I don’t feel it is McEldreys god given right, but I do take the charts for what they are, a measure of the popular, the fluffy, the light entertainment. I am not who they are aimed at, even if I do find N-Dubz utterly charming.

The charts are and really have always been about the listening publics liking of the shortlived, the burst of pop that for 3 minutes is the best in their world. If it is Mr Blobby or The Spice Girls, or Chipmunk or even Joe McEldrey, then so be it, its three minutes nothing more. I want my charts to be full of this guff, I like the fact that I don’t know every single single in the charts. I like the fact that it isn’t aimed with me and I can watch harmless inoffensive fluff on Christmas Day, I like it more if it involves females dancers dressed inappropriately for December chilliness. I really do not want Zack De La Rocha disturbing my third Sheridans as I settle down to watch some faceless northerner on Top Of The Pops.

Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine

Early figures indicate that the internet campaign to get Killing In The Name Of to the Christmas top spot may actually be working. The only problem with this and part of the reason I am on the pro Joe camp, is, well, it’s not a very good song. Maybe I am too close to 40 and too close to being middle class to not be effected by its “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” battle cry, may be if it was “sit down and have a nice cup of tea” it may have me rushing to my local online MP3 seller to upset the musical apple cart. As it is Tom Morello and Sideshow Bob’s revolution is best consigned to the bedrooms of 13 year old boys who believe themselves to be so utterly reactionary, as I was when I first heard Do Not Stand In The Shadows by Billy Idol, he said the F word, TWICE!!!

So I say let Joe have his time in the sun, let that awful song be trotted out between bands at festivals and let Syco’s glorious leader have enough money to fund his search for the next Susan Boyle.

Not Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine

Monday, 14 December 2009

Ride This Train

Today I was riding the train with Johnny Cash, that is if by train you mean Ford Fiesta, and by Johnny Cash you mean a black rucksack. My journey was through Staffordshire, he was my soundtrack, his 1960 album, Ride This Train. Johnny released 3 albums in 1960, this was the middle of the three.
This is an odd album really, it’s a concept album, considered to be one of the very first concept albums and Johnny opens each track with a little narrative about the destination the train will be taking you to, and somehow linking that to the song that comes after it. All the while you can hear in the background the clickety-clack of the train on the tracks. It was the first time I had listened to this album, and outside of a single song, Going To Memphis, I hadn’t heard any of it before.
Of the 8 songs that appeared on the original disc, Cash only wrote 3, he lets the troubadours, folklore artists and story tellers of the US tell the tales that make up Johnny Cash’s fictional journey. He isn’t about the now, or the modern, but he never was and these songs are more akin to the 1800’s than 1960. Johnny talks, not for the first time, about John Wesley Hardin, the outlaw, and that’s what these songs are about, Cowboys and Outlaws, about journeys and destinations. Cash does what he does best when he is painting you a picture, on this album he wants the picture to be that of one that goes past as you ride this train.
Cash really isn’t about modernity, through his entire career Cash harked back to an era of cottonfields and shacks, you couldn’t imagine talk of ipods and emails coming into his songs could you. This album is thankfully before the time of ipods and emails, and it is all the better for it. 10 out of 10.

Old Doc Brown by Johnny Cash

Friday, 11 December 2009


Today I had an exam, but on the way to that exam I had the best soundtrack possible. The God compilation that Johnny Cash released.
If the rules dictated that you could have a compilation as your favourite Johnny Cash record, this would top that list. I don’t set the rules, that’s set by the International Favourite Johnny Cash Album League, they are sticklers.
This album is really as fantastic as it gets, I used to mistakenly think my very favourite Johnny Cash track was on this album, Far Side Banks Of Jordan, it isn’t, that’s on a June Carter Cash album, no harm no foul and as is the quality of this album, its still a great great album even minus that song.
This album revisits songs from almost his entire career that deal with God, religion or some other spiritual nonsense. The subject matter is neither here nor there, the delivery is the important thing and boy does he deliver it.
Cash can talk about spiritual awakening with the same tone that he talks about fixing to shoot someone, there is fire in his belly and sincerity in his voice.
Normal run of things this album would drop around 10 points due to having that fucking idiot Bono write the liner notes, I didn’t read them though so the points stay in tact.
What of the songs then, by golly they are good, some originals, some traditional, some by June, some by others, every single one a great. From Johnny’s rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to his take on Kristofferson’s Why Me Lord. Each one delivered with more meaning, more passion, more beauty than a million Aled Jones’s.
Even amongst all of the great songs on this album, one song stands head and shoulders above everything else, the ridiculously good Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord, a traditional song that has the most gorgeous vocal of any record you will hear any time or any place. June Carter Cash on this record will not be equalled, sincerely. If I do find it on Youtube, stick with it and listen please, (I have, 31 seconds in, stunning) I would like to know your thoughts as well.
That all said, an easy 10 out of 10. An album everyone should own.

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord by Johnny Cash

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ragged Old Flag

Ragged Old Flag today on the commute, another Johnny Cash album. This was released in 1974 on Columbia Records.
This is a more stripped down album than yesterdays Silver. Outside of the first track, the title track its paired down making use of The Tennessee Three and backing vocal talents of The Oak Ridge Boys. The Statler Brothers had relinquished themselves of the position of Cash’s backing group at this point.
The title track features Earl Scruggs on Banjo, it may be, for English ears at least a bit too much of a schmaltz fest. Its like a musical version of that Simpsons episode, Barts People. Cash telling the story of why the flag was so ragged. I think in the time of Watergate the American public loved the song.
Lonesome to The Bone appears on this album and its better on this than the version that appeared on Silver, a beautiful song, that, as I mentioned yesterday reminds me of Kris Kristofferson.
Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, Johnny Cash takes a shot at what was happening to the environment in Don’t Go Near The water
All in all this is a very good album, all songs on the album are written by Cash, it isn’t over produced, it is really marvellous. One I recommend searching out.
10 out of 10. He doesn’t do anything less than great.

Lonesome To The Bone by Johnny Cash

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Todays CD is yet another Cash CD, this time it is his 1979 album Silver. You may recall the B’s and my frown at the multiple Bragg’s that I was working through. You might expect the same with Johnny after all its been quite a Cash intensive week so far, a week that isn’t coming to an end any time soon.
So this album, Silver, from a period that most listeners aren’t massively familiar with, even though this album contains one of Johnny’s most well known songs in his interpretation of Ghost Riders In The Sky.
Silver is quite notable for being the final album Johnny Cash recorded with bassist Marshall Grant, original member of Cash’s backing band, The Tennessee Two (and later with WS Holland the Tennessee Three). The sound of The Tennessee Three had mellowed over the years and although the boom-chicka sound was still present it was more broader, and none more so on this album.
1979 in country and western music was reaching a bit of a watershed. It was at the end of the peak that the 70’s had ushered in and The Highwaymen had not yet formed, perhaps with this Cash needed to set his own agenda, needed to re-impress himself on his public. Prior to this Cash had released, or at least labels representing Cash had released 2 or 3 compilations, the last album proper, Gone girl had only had 2 Cash compositions on it, Silver needed to make a mark, and if his songwriting juices were not flowing, Johnny had to ensure that what he did work with sounded like his own.
As was the case during this period, Johnny Cash revisited songs from his past, Cocaine Blues had already appeared in a couple of incarnations, on this release it sounds like a rich cousin of White Lightning, Cocaine Blues over the process of this listening exercise is becoming more increasingly a favourite. In the bonus tracks on this CD, Cash is ably assisted on I Got Stripes and I Still Miss Someone by George Jones, Jones’ twang sits at odds with Cash’s growl but oddly they match.
Lonesome to the Bone on this album, initially I thought it was a Kristofferson track, sounding in part like Sunday Morning Coming Down, but the liner notes tell me differently and this is the stand out track for me, its quite a beautiful song. It first appeared on the 74 album (and imminent to me) Ragged Old Flag.
The entire album is a bit of an uncovered classic in its own way, the production is rich but not schmaltzy, its full but still has an intimacy, the Tennessee Three can be heard but are ably assisted.
Cash is serious on this album but still finds time to poke fun at himself on I'll Say It's True.

I've never been in prison
I don't know much about trains
My favorite singer cooks my breakfast
I like her fancy and I like her plain

I love bright and flashing colors
Like hot pink and Dresden blue
But if they ask me if it's true
That I still love you, I'll say it's true

Marvellous. 10 out of 10.

Ghost Riders In The Sky by Johnny Cash

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show

More Cash, well actually not an entire Cash album today, The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show is a compilation album featuring artists that appeared on Johnny Cash’s TV show. This is a double disc packsge, one disc is a DVD of selected appearances and the other is the audio and its interspersed with Johnny singing a few tracks.
There is enough on the disc to keep me more than entertained, from the none Cash selections we have Kris Krisstoferson, Glen Campbell performing Wichita Lineman, Neil Young performing The Needle and the Damage Done, Tammy Wynette perfroming Stand By Your Man aswell as James Taylor, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The latter doing a low down dirty version of Blue suede Shoes.
The Disc also contains a rather splendid version of Ring Of Fire performed by Ray Charles, and many fine contributions by June Carter Cash, a voice no better exists I would say.
This all brings me round to Johnny Cash’s contributions, all the tracks are performed live and what we have is a rousing version of Boy Named Sue, a cover of Cash’s hero, Jimmi Rodgers featuring Louis Armstrong. Duets with June include their beautiful If You Were a Carpenter, which is a little muddled up on this recording.
The complete highlight though, and something in this version I had not heard before was Cash and Joni Mitchell duetting on The Girl of The North Country, a truly great and beautiful song made even better with the addition of Mitchell’s voice. A real highlight.
So it’s a compilation, but as strong a compilation as you will find, these are live versions, but controlled live versions and it’s a joy to hear them. The DVD features Neil Diamond singing Cracklin Rosie, I may have to watch that tonight. All in all, purely for Joni Mitchell, but also for Glen and June. 10 out of 10.

Girl of The North Country by Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell

Monday, 7 December 2009

At Folsom Prison

Today we are at Folsom Prison, not literally, literally it’s Coleshill, but as far as my loosely alphabeticised CD collection goes, the next album along is another Johnny Cash album, perhaps his most well known, At Folsom Prison.
At Folsom Prison is a better record of Cash’s prison gigs, the San Quentin album although excellent is a little more polished than the Folsom album and this 1999 reissue although not my favourite album of Johnny’s or my favourite live album of Johnny’s you can certainly see it’s worth and importance and as far as the set list is concerned, it’s a strong one that isn’t just about the hits.
Joe Bean reappears here, as does The Wall, but I don’t think he could do a prison concert without doing those, similarly Long Black Veil and Folsom Prison Blues.
If anything though away from those songs of murder, the mood is very much light, June Carter isn’t he wife at this point, at that was 2 months away, and Johnny is pretty much drug free, and that new found feeling is shown in the lightness of the songs, be it Cocaine Blues, or Dirty Old Egg-Suckin' Dog or Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart. Johnny still gives us I Still Miss Someone and Orange Blossom Special, but he wants to keep the mood light and that is what pervades this album.
All in all its difficult for me to write anything about this album that you wont already know, it’s a classic, a true great, the songs, the performance, the venue and therefore an unsurprising 10 out of 10.

Cocaine Blues by Johnny Cash

Sunday, 6 December 2009


The journey back from Oxfordshire was made all the more enjoyable with another Johnny Cash disc, this time the 2000 compilation, Murder.
Murder was originally part of a three disc box set, although they were also sold seperately, the other discs were God, Love and later one was also released called Life. Effectively they were themed discs that picked out the best Johnny Cash songs that fitted loosely in to those categories, this one Murder, fits the bill on the whole, sometimes its just death though.
So what of it, with Cash, regardless of the album you never get anything less than perfect, this is not the exception.
This collects tracks across a career spanning selection, be it Folsom Prison Blues or Cocaine Blues, the latter was originally recorded by Cash under the name of Transfusion Blues on his 1960 album, Now There Was A Song, as well as being performed at the Folsom prison concert, it appears here as Cocaine Blues.
The eeriest song outside of the gorgeous When it's Springtime in Alaska, is the song Joe Bean. The song closes with Cash and Carter Cash singing Happy Birthday to Joe Bean only for the sound of the gallows floor opening and the rope creaking. Eerie stuff.
Finally amongst the other great songs on this disc are two of Johnny Cash's late career highlights, Delia's Gone, certainly one of my all time top ten Cash tracks and his take on Bruce Springsteen's Highway Patrolman. A great version.
The song closes with The Wall, a song also on At San Quentin, like most on Murder, not only very sad, but it you see the futility of the situation from the off.

All in all Murder is a fantastic compilation, unsure if I have God on CD, but I know God is the better of the three, that doesnt detract from this disc though, a perfect 10 out of 10.

Joe Bean by Johnny Cash

Saturday, 5 December 2009

At San Quentin

Next CD, Friday nights drive to Oxfordshire was the Johnny Cash album, At San Quentin. This is the 2000 reissue of the 1969 album. The previous year saw Cash perform at Folsom, but this is a record of his concert to prisoners and wardens at California's San Quentin Prison.
San Quentin has hosted as inmates Merle Haggard and Art Pepper within its walls but this was quite a unique concert really. Cash had always wanted to do a concert for prisoners and this started at Folsom prison at continued here at San Quentin.
This was recorded for Granada TV and he refers to this in his between song dialogue, a later deluxe edition of this disc contains the entire concert and a DVD of that concert.
This album contains more than a few highpoints for me, the stand out track is I Still Miss Someone, not a massively well known song, it should be, hopefully Youtube will have a recording of this but if not please do seek it out for a listen.
Cash is backed, vocally by The Statler Brothers but also by the gorgeous voice of June Carter Cash. And its her contribution to the song (There'll Be) Peace in the Valley, a beautiful song. Utterly gorgeous.
Outside of these you get on the whole Cash staples such as I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Daddy Sang Bass as well as A Boy Named Sue.
The other tracks on this disc are the intriguing for me, such as the song San Quentin, it went down so well that he plays it twice in a row.
Unsure if this album is better than his Folsom album, I will know next week I think. Either way, superb. 10 out of 10.

San Quentin by Johnny Cash

Friday, 4 December 2009

Orange Blossom Special

Here is a fact for you, up to 1965 Johnny Cash had released 20, get that, 20!! albums. Its that 20th album that I listened to on my commute in this morning. It may be Johnny’s 20th but it is my favourite Johnny Cash album, Orange Blossom Special. Orange Blossom Special is the first of a week of Cash albums by the look of it.
I love this album more than any other Cash album because of the songs, obviously, but the choice of songs is more perfect than the preceding 19 or the subsequent 76, all great in their own way, but not as fantastic as Orange Blossom Special.
I can even forgive 3 Dylan songs on this album as in the case of It Ain’t Me Babe, it stops becoming Dylans and Cash claims it, the same could be said for Mama, You've Been on My Mind. The third Dylan track is Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright and this further cements the relationship that Dylan and Cash would have throughout Cash’s life. Great versions.
The album, at least on this version, but the albums highlights for me are two of my favourite Cash tracks. On any given day When It's Springtime in Alaska is my favourite Cash song, its so damn sparse, yet so beautiful, possibly only bettered by The Far Side Banks Of Jordan, that doesn’t appear on this album though. Another contender for Cash’s best is (I'm Proud) The Baby is Mine, appearing here as a bonus track. I man re-affirming his love for a woman that takes the pint. It’s a great song, stunning.
Another highlight of the album in a bonus track form is Engine 143, re-recorded later in Cash’s life and another one of the songs that using train imagery to get its point across, along with the title track of course. Engine 143 in its re-recorded version was the very last song that Johnny recorded, at least according to Wikipedia, I thought that honour befell to the beautiful Like the 309, but that actually may have been the last one he wrote. I have digressed a little.
Enough to say this is another perfect Cash album, 10 out of 10.

When It’s Springtime In Alaska by Johnny Cash

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Cowcube and his selftitled album today.
My its an upbeat album, taking the best bits (see my review) of The Avalanches and melding them with Lemon Jelly to produce something quite great by itself.
I havent played it in years and maybe time has dated the turntablistic leanings and its cut and paste sampling but it doesnt stop it being good.
Cowcube is a single person, and he was championed by Peel rather mightily around 2000, and I think this is when this album dates from. It melds rather cutely samples from stereo demonstration records and public information films, with at times drum and bass beats, or is that drum n bass. I am too old for this I feel. Either way it is clever in all the right places and those samples bring a familiarity to the CD.
Its more than knowing samples though as oddly for a CD of this genre, its got tunes, and that is where it is aligned with a similar artist that do that so well, Lemon Jelly.
All in all a great album, enjoyable actually, not great so 6 out of 10.

Itchy Cut by Cowcube

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Sorry about the hurried entry for yesterday. I might have to revisit it at a later date.
Today though its more Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and their debut self titled album.
Many years ago, either late 2004 or early 2005 whilst downloading illegal music on Soulseek, actually was the music illegal or the activity, or was it the format that the music came in? Whats illegal about MP3’s? OK, so some years ago I was downloading music illegally. It was The Magic Numbers, and I was after some of their demo’s, hold on if it was demo’s was that illegal? They were probably given out free, after all who charges for demos?
Anyway, I started downloading these demos and the girl I was downloading off suggested that I try some demos by a New York based band, clap Your Hands Say Yeah. As friends will tell you, those demos changed my life musically, well I say changed my life, if I was listening to purely gospel music and then started listening to CYHSY, then yes it would change have changed my life, but it did at least make me love a new band. I pretty much, actually, I did buy everything the band released from then on in, including the self released, self titled album.
Before I comment on the album, CYHSY are as I have said a New York based band, featuring the songwriting talents of Alec Ounsworth, Ounsworth is still based in Philadelphia and of late has been releasing material under his own name and as part of Flashy Python, the latter released some CYHSY demos under their own name a few years back too.
Anyway, I managed to catch the band live a few years back, and although I still adore the bands music, they are absolutely dreadful live, I mean shocking. They do write good songs though.
That all said, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, initially released by the band in 2005, and then re-released by Wichita Recordings in 2006. 12 tracks.
The album is maybe one of my favourite albums. I think its faultless and each and every track is a joy to listen to even now after playing it a million times and badgering people that they are the greatest band since Hefner. They aren’t but as is the case with me, THE greatest thing ever is fleeting and I always do believe at that point whatever it is I am talking about is the best or greatest ever.
So this album is a lot more earthy and shambolic, and more urgent than its successor. Some Loud Thunders polished the rough edges of the self titles, lest you hurt yourself. Some Loud Thunder maybe had one eye on the indie dance crossover second coming that was emanating out of New York at the time with the likes of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture and the mightily awful Gossip. The self titled wants you to dance, but more dervish than Studio 54, more piano rolls than roller disco. If my steering wheel could be annoyed at the over exuberant drumming, it would.
I thought I knew what was my favourite on this album, Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth, but then I hear and remember On This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood with its Dave Byrne vocal leanings and yelps, its hard not to love it.
Byrnes New York is the major influence on this album and that is the voice that critics have compared Ounsworths to the most. It is there but it is an influence and not a karaoke version from Star In Their Eyes.
Details of The War slows the pace a little and gives you time to breath, and gives the steering wheel a chance to recover, the pace though is steady and the right choice of instruments reminds me a little of their compatriots, The National. Not too much though.
All in all this is one of my very favourite albums, excellent in every way, superb. 10 out of 10.

This is a very odd video put together by someone, that isn’t them but others. The music is though.

Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Some Loud Thunder

Perhaps I was a little harsh about my Glen Campbell disc, its value according to comments is there, just not for me as I was expecting a best of, only to be met with a live recording that didn't at least as much as I was concerned, the goods.
Enough of that though, that was yesterday, today it was the second, and suspect the final, studio release by New York based band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder.
I will save a lot for tomorrow, but I really like this album. They are so different a band and I think non more so than on this album. Main songwriter Alec Ounsworth's voice is stronger and his lyrics even more odd, in a good way, here.
I am a little pushed for time and really can go on, and on about CYHSY, so I will save it for later. Great album, 8 out of 10, best track the final one.

Five Easy Pieces by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah