Listen to this track by earth-moving intergalactic funk pioneers Parliament. It’s “Mothership Connection (Star Child)”, aka “Star Child (Mothership Connection)”, the second track and third single off of 1975’s Mothership Connection and released in August of 1976.
This record was their second full-length album in the same year, following up Chocolate City which was released in the spring of 1975. That earlier album created a mythology that placed black culture in the mainstream, and in the literal seats of power in the United States where in real life it was absent; the white house and the Lincoln memorial as depicted on its cover. With the follow-up in Mothership Connection, lead creative mind George Clinton decided to make the presence of black people and culture known in another sphere where they had largely (Star Trek excepted) also been absent; in the stars, and the realm of science fiction. This led to an even more potent mythology and set of imagery for which Clinton and his various projects would become best known; a comic book-style world of outer space.
In some ways, Clinton’s child-like vision that frames the music here was the antithesis of much of funk-soul music at the time. It’s fun and full of abandon instead of political and earnest. And yet, with this approach, it was political in its own way, just by challenging the expectations of the mainstream, and helping to change perspectives on the role of black voices in the wider culture at the time. Continue reading →
Listen to this track by James Dean-meets-Sinatra-meets-Bix-Beiderbecke jazz amalgam and legend in his own right Chet Baker. It’s “Almost Blue”, a latter-day standard for Baker as featured prominently in the film Let’s Get Lost and also featured on the live album Chet Baker Live In Tokyo, recorded in 1987 and released posthumously the next year.
That movie was a documentary about Baker, who had risen in prominence in the fifties, initially in his associations with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and with the West Coast jazz scene in general. But, Baker had also played with east coast musicians, too, including Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Baker had even caught the eye of the movie industry, thanks to his almost supernatural good looks. In addition to all of that, Baker was a gifted trumpeter, and hauntingly nuanced vocalist. He was known for his melancholic tone with both voice and instrument, making his name by playing standards that were tinged with tragedy; “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, “The Thrill Is Gone”, and “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, being prime examples.
Maybe that’s why this tune, written by Elvis Costello with Chet Baker in mind, fit so well into his musical wheelhouse, eventually becoming a stalwart concert favourite during the last phase of his career. Yet, the theme of dissatisfaction and loss seemed to go beyond the material. Baker seems to embody it, and for good reason. By the eighties, Baker had seen it all. To many, it was a miracle that he would be able to tell about it, probably including Chet Baker. Continue reading →
In his triumphant return to the pages of The Delete Bin, merely popping in perhaps from his sojourn as a book-writer and blogger in his own right (write?), Geoff Moore deliberates over his career as a novelist, specifically as a music nut with a penchant for titling his work like a boss, or rather in deference to THE Boss.
He also talks a bit about his newest book, Duke Street Kings, a tale of friendship, betrayal, the advertising industry, and the possibility of swimming with the fishes, gangland style — all set to a beat you can dance to.
In 1962 Bo Diddley sang Willie Dixon’s words: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” But the artwork and especially the title will surely influence your decision to purchase it.
In the mid-1990s I set about writing my second novel as my first attempt was quietly disintegrating in landfill somewhere in the environs of Montreal. Taking Stock was to be a novel about work. In my life I’d found that when my career was going well my personal life was a mess and vice versa. One propped up the other. Neither ever went well at the same time and I wondered what would happen to a man if his alternating pair of support systems tanked at the same time. Continue reading →
Listen to this track by former TV band turned actual real life band featured in their own movie, The Monkees. It’s “Porpoise Song”, a 1968 single also to be heard on the soundtrack to the movie Head. The film wasdirected by The Monkees TV series creator and director Bob Rafaelson who would go on to direct many films into the 1970s, including Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson, who in turn would serve as a screeenwriter on Head. The Monkees TV producer Bert Schneider would also produce the feature. The gang was all here.
In addition to the filmmaking aspect of the project, The Monkees had other allies on this tune, with whom they had a healthy and fruitful relationship; Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who had written a number of other songs in their catalogue, including a hit song in “Pleasant Valley Sunday“. That was during the era in which the band were beamed into living rooms all over the nation. Since that period, they’d cut loose the bonds of their former personas as lovable TV goofs. They had established their own path as a real band without the fuel of a hit TV show to propel them onto the charts.
And yet, with “Porpoise Song” and with Head, that former life was still referenced, although in a more satirical light — or maybe as a way to decompress from it and make their escape once and for all. The results were, perhaps, not as they’d thought. Continue reading →
Listen to this track by Hamilton based and cinematically monikered pop-psych collective led by one Bill Majoros, The Foreign Films. It’s “Empire Of Night”, a key track as taken from the third side of the upcoming full length album, The Record Collector, due in early 2016.
Majoros’ interest in a wide spectrum of pop music is well documented with his work under The Foreign Films banner. This was initially apparent with 2007’s double album Distant Star. It continued to develop in the ensuing years, with various singles and EPs that revealed a love of all kinds of pop music that certainly included British psych and sixties guitar music. But, it also included girl group pop and classic soul music too. The key to Majoros’ success has always been about translating a passion and enthusiasm for these strains of music into something integrated and new.
Working with a number of musicians, including singer-songwriter Kori Pop who is featured in lead vocal spots through out, Majoros describes himself as being akin to a musical mad scientist, with the creation of the new record being less about simply getting the songs down on tape, and more like that of musical alchemic process, mixing elements together as contributed by everyone he works with and awaiting the x-factor for each song for them to become what they need to be. Continue reading →
Listen to this track by first tier of second wave ska outfits The Specials. It’s “Too Much Too Young” as featured on their 1980 EP of the same name. It was released in January of that year, quick to follow up their self-titled record that preceded it in October.
This song was featured on that release as well, with a slightly slower and more languid tempo. With this version, recorded live in front of an audience at the Lyceum in London, the song is amped up in every way, full of the kind of on-stage energy for which the band were known by this time, clocking in at just over two minutes. The result was a number one showing on the UK singles chart in February, being the shortest song in the UK to hit a number one spot during that decade.
As with much of their material, The Specials drew inspiration from the Trojan label and the music associated with it coming out of Jamaica in the mid-to-late sixties. Head writer Jerry Dammers based this song around some elements that can be found on the 1969 single by Lloyd Charmers “Birth Control“, adding a bit of contemporary content of his own in this new track that took some of the themes of the original, and put something of a political spin on the proceedings in so doing. So, how does a jaunty ska track become so political? Continue reading →
Listen to this track by up-and-coming Melburnian singer-songwriter and leftie guitar slinger Courtney Barnett. It’s “Pedestrian At Best”, a single off her 2015 full-length debut record entitled Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. This is a live version as featured on a Guardian session, recorded in Shoreditch in London.
This new record was built upon the momentum Barnett created from two previous EPs, another band in Immigrant Union, lots of live appearances as solo act, and on a developing style that matches stream-of-consciousness narratives with tons (make that the more Antipodean heaps) of wattage on top. Her song “Avant Gardener” from her 2013 EP How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose as put out by her own Milk! label won the praises of Pitchfork as best new track that year. This new album scored a solid 8.6 rating from the Pitchforkers, almost as if it really, really got to them. Plus, there have been several mentions of musical goodliness from the usual suspects by now; Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Guardian, NME, and beyond.
With every new artist that makes a splash like this, comparisons with those artists who have similarly blazed the trails of their times are unavoidable. You can choose your own here. But, my immediate reaction is that no one in recent memory has started where Courtney Barnett starts with on this tune, and on the record in general. Where you certainly can make those comparisons to what is happening on this song, somehow they are hollow when you try to impose them. This tune is bigger than all that, and so I suspect is Courtney Barnett.