torsdag 31. mars 2011

Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers

In 1980 Peter Gabriel released his third self-titled album, preceded by the single "Games Without Frontiers". It marked a radical change in direction for Gabriel who prior to his first two solo albums of course were the lead singer of Genesis. Now all of a sudden he did something markedly different, not for the first and certainly not for the last time in his career, but this time it had a bigger impact than previous efforts.

The soundscape of "Games Without Frontiers" and the album it belongs to, is part of a collective sound of the time, and it's hard to tell who came up with what. Musically it's related to what both David Bowie and Talking Heads did at the time, and I don't think the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (1981) would have sounded the same either if it wasn't for what all of these artists were doing. You can argue that Kate Bush's music at the time were related as well, and she actually sings backing vocals on "Games Without Frontiers". The electronics and drum machines present was state of the art at the time, and they still sound excellent.

The song's title is lifted from a European game show, Jeux Sans Frontièrs, featuring teams competing for prizes in outlandish games of skill dressed in bizarre costumes. Since the teams represented towns and cities from different countries the games had an element of nationalism that Gabriel critiques in the song.

Watch and listen

The Staple Singers - Respect Yourself

"Respect Yourself" is one of The Staple Singers' best known songs, a true soul classic, originally released in 1971. It was written by Stax Records singer Luther Ingram and Stax house songwriter Mack Rice. Ingram was frustrated with the state of the world and told Rice that "black folk need to learn to respect themselves". Rice liked the phrase so much that he built a funk groove around it and gave the song to The Staples who were also signed to Stax. It became a huge hit and is closely related to the black struggle and civil rights movement who were still going on at the time, carrying a universal and inspiring message of respect and equality. Great, great song! Here's a live clip from 1972.

Watch and listen

Duran Duran meets Gerard Way for "Planet Earth"

During a show in Los Angeles last week Duran Duran were assisted by singer Gerard Way of emo band My Chemical Romance for "Planet Earth", the band's first ever single. It was released more or less exactly 30 years ago when Gerard Way wasn't even four years old. Here's a clip showing Way and DD singer Simon Le Bon performing the song together.

"New" Neil Young album in June

The 80's were not the best years of Neil Young's career. He made one great album that most people didn't like anyway (Old Ways, 1985) and were even sued by his own record company at the time for making uncommercial records. That's maybe not too strange considering the quality of the synth album Trans (1982) and the rockabilly album Everybody's Rockin' (1983), but you can at least call it unusual.

I don't know if this is a way for Young to reclaim the 80's, but on June 10th he will release the album A Treasure under the moniker Neil Young & The International Harvesters. It's basically a country album with songs Young and his band performed on tour in 1984 and 1985. The little I've heard sounds great. There are some songs that have been released in different versions ("Bound For Glory", "Are You Ready For The Country", "Get Back To The Country") and some great unreleased songs such as "Southern Pacific" and "Nothing Is Perfect". On the latter sparks appear to be flying out of Young's guitar. It sounds like an electric country music storm.

You can listen a bit for yourself and watch Young talk about the album here.

More Nick Cave reissues coming up

There have been two previous batches of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds reissues. May 16th sees the third one, when EMI/Mute release deluxe editions of the albums Let Love In (1994), Murder Ballads (1996), The Boatman's Call (1997) and No More Shall We Part (2001). As with the previous seven reissues each re-mastered album will be accompanied by a DVD containing the album in a new surround mix, as well as single B-sides, videos and a short film on the album in question. Full tracklisting here.

Billy Bragg and Kirsty MacColl - A New England

One of my favorite political songs is Billy Bragg's "A New England", for two specific reasons: That it's actually about people and not only politics, and of course that it's a brilliant tune. He originally recorded it in 1983 for his mini LP Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy, where everything was about the man, his powerful voice and his electric guitar, nothing else.

One year later Kirsty MacColl recorded the same song, but from a female point of view. A wonderful sweeping production by her then-husband Steve Lillywhite rocketed it to the UK charts where it reached an impressive number 7.

They are both great versions, but really very different. Listen for yourself and see which one you like the best. Myself, I'll always go with Kirsty, bless her memory!

Billy Bragg version

Kirsty MacColl version

onsdag 30. mars 2011

Willie won't have to sing in the courtroom

Earlier this week, it was reported that Willie Nelson would have to sing "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" in front of a judge in order to resolve his marijuana possession charges. According to Associated Press it was just a joke and "it got out of hand." Nelson will be able to plead guilty and pay a small fine without appearing in court.

You can read more on Rolling Stone's website here.

Better late than never - here's Yoga Fire!

Yes, I confess. Never listening to Yoga Fire before today was a mistake, but there you go. There are way too many artists out there - good AND bad - to have time for them all. As the Oslo band Yoga Fire sings in Norwegian this won't mean a thing to you if you speak English or some other language, but of the very few people who will actually read this I would assume that won't be too many. The singer, by the way, is Dansken, one of the two really funny guys in the TV show "Dansken og Fingeren". Well, without further ado, here are three great tracks på Yoga Fire:

De eneste i verden

Slepp Johnny fri

Superkul med kniv

Yoga Fire konsert.

Everything But The Girl - Each And Every One & Missing

British duo Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, married and collectively known as Everything But The Girl, radically changed their sound in the 1990's. From their earlier efforts as keepers of the bossa nova flame and melancholy pop artists, all of a sudden they turned into a house duo, starting with the success of a remix of their track "Missing" by DJ and producer Todd Terry, and continuing with a few very different but really good albums. So which do you prefer - the melancholy, acoustic sound or the house sound, which is still quite melancholy, although very different? Check out two tracks here, and see which you like the most:

Each And Every One (1984)

Missing (Todd Terry Remix) (1994)

Album review: Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now

Duran Duran lost me after their second album Rio (1982). I was never ready for the sound of songs like "Union Of The Snake" or "The Reflex", and after a while they simply became boring, hitting bottom with the decidedly unimpressive cover collection Thank You (1995). Maverick producer Mark Ronson seems to agree with me as he told Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and the other guys that they should try to make the actual follow-up to Rio when approached to co-produce their new album. So in a sense All You Need Is Now can be regarded as Duran Duran's third album that was never recorded - until now.

It was released digitally just before Christmas as a nine track album. This week it was finally released on CD, expanded to 14 tracks - or 16 as in the deluxe edition I've bought. (Clever bastards, they made me buy the album twice!) Although I like my albums short - ten songs is usually just fine - it hasn't suffered much by getting some extra weight added to it. Although most of the great songs were already there, the new track "Mediterranea" is better than most, and the others - including a few instrumental snippets - sort of ties it all together.

And it actually does sound like Duran Durans lost third album. "Leave A Light On" is the stand-out track, reminiscent of the classic "Save A Prayer", still the band's most beautiful song. First single and opening track "All You Need Is Now" vaguely resembles the Bond theme "A View To A Kill", "Being Followed" is a first cousin to "Planet Earth" or "Careless Memories", "Girl Panic" is a fatter, funkier version of "Girls On Film" and the epic "The Man Who Stole A Leopard" is this album's "The Chauffeur". You can possible trace the origins to most of the other songs as well, but I won't bother with that. I'll also briefly mention that Ana Matronic of The Scissor Sisters and Kelis are guest singers on the album.

To be honest, I never thought it would come to this, me liking a new Duran Duran album. And not only do I like this, I love parts of it, and the whole thing is simply great fun. A big thank you goes out to Mark Ronson for setting things straight!

Watch the video for All You Need Is Now

All You Need Is Now

tirsdag 29. mars 2011

New edition of Uncut Magazine

The latest issue of the brilliant magazine Uncut is also in stores today - in the UK, that is. Us poor Norwegians - and other Europeans - will have to wait a week or two to get out hands on it. What we have in store is a cover story on Fleet Foxes, soon to be releasing their eagerly awaited second album, and also stories on Gram Parsons, Wings, Low, Johnny Thunders and more. Not a magazine for people born this decade, but what the hey! Read more about the contents here.

Uncut Magazine cover

Free Emmylou Harris download from forthcoming album

Emmylou Harris has put out a free download of the opening track from her forthcoming album Hard Bargain. It's called "The Road" and sounds great. Go here to download the song. The album is out on April 29th (Norway), April 26th (USA) and April 25th (UK).

Hard Bargain

Latest edition of Q in shops soon

Q 298 is in the shops in the UK today, and will follow in a week or two here in Norway. Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters graces the cover of the new issue. There is also a story on Biffy Clyro (just confirmed for the Norwegian Slottsfjell festival) and a behind the scenes look on the forthcoming Arctic Monkeys album. Click here to read more.


The Adult Net - Waking Up In The Sun

This slice of perfect summer pop was originally released in 1986, the fourth in a series of singles and the first to barely reach a chart position in the UK, at number 95. The Adult Net were signed to indie label Rough Trade where they also recorded a still unreleased album, but was picked up by Fontana a few years later, and recorded a new one, The Honey Tangle. Among the tracks was a re-recorded version of "Waking Up In The Sun", still wonderful, but it charted even lower, at number 99, and the album also flopped. Singer and main songwriter Brix Smith was married to The Fall's Mark E. Smith and was also a member of that band. Today she goes by the name of Brix Smith-Start and runs Start - a chain of four clothing stores - with her second husband, Philip Start. The American born Smith-Start has also become a well-known TV personality in the UK.


Brix with The Fall in 1984

Brix today

Original Rough Trade single (1986)

Fontana single (1989)

Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

Can you spell this word: Beautiful? There is no other way to describe Crowded House's ballad "Don't Dream It's Over", off its eponymous debut album (1986). The Aussie/Kiwi band were formed by Neil Finn and Paul Hester (both formerly of Split Enz), and Nick Seymour, and they eventually made it to the charts around the world. "Don't Dream It's Over" was their first major hit single in 1987, and was the start of a beautiful adventure involving a few changes in personnel and also the recent (well, recent-ish..., 2005) suicide of Hester. The band is now reformed with Finn and Seymour, but their reunion has so far produced two not so impressive albums. The first four is another matter though, all of them great. And now, please listen to "Don't Dream It's Over". The instrumental organ part that enters at 1:50 is enough to make grown men weep, it's so beauitful.

Watch and listen

Three men are standing in front of posters advertising the band. Man at left is wearing sunglasses, smiling and adjusting his dark jacket. Man in middle is staring to his left and wears a similar dark jacket. Third man is also staring to his left and has a dark jacket.

ABC - The Look Of Love

ABC were loosely associated with the new romantics movement in the early 1980's alongside bands such as Spandau Ballet and Visage. They soon turned into a full-fledged pop band though, albeit a quite romantic one at that. Their debut album was called The Lexicon Of Love (1982) and the biggest hit off it was the wonderfully romantic "The Look Of Love". It was brilliantly produced by Trevor Horn (Yes, Buggles, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Seal, etc.) with lush strings and a "big" sound. The music video is also a piece of art in itself, inspired both by the Mary Poppins film and Punch And Judy style puppet shows, with the band members wearing Edwardian style light summer suits. It's playful and funny and perfectly accompanies the song.

Watch and listen

Prefab Sprout - When Love Breaks Down

In the summer of 1985 Prefab Sprout released their classic album Steve McQueen, but almost a year earlier the single "When Love Breaks Down" arrived in the shops. At the time it was released I was not able to let it go and played it repeatedly. I still play it from time to time, and it hasn's lost anything of its original appeal. After one of its several re-releases the song eventually became a minor hit single, deservedly so, even though it should have been massive if the world was a just place. Paddy McAloon is one of pop's finest songwriters, and "When Love Breaks Down" is one of the standouts in a catalogue that is truly impressive.

Watch and listen

Nelly Furtado - I'm Like A Bird & Say It Right

What happened to Nelly Furtado? She more or less totally reinvented herself (or someone did, at least) from an incredibly cute pop singer into a sultry R&B/hip hop sex siren. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind, but there's a big step from her wonderful debut "I'm Like A Bird" to the saucy "Say It Right". They're both good, but I prefer the former. See for yourself:

I'm Like A Bird

Say It Right

mandag 28. mars 2011

Kate Bush - Cloudbusting

Some songs are special beyond description, and Kate Bush's "Cloudbusting" (1985) is one of the. Taken from her smash album Hounds Of Love, the song is about the hugely influential and controversial Austrian-American psychologist Wilhelm Reich's arrest and imprisonment through the eyes of his young son, Peter. Peter later wrote his father's story in the book A Book Of Dreams (1973) upon which the song is based. Wilhelm Reich was the inventor of the cloudbuster, or rainmaking machine. In the accompanying video Donald Sutherland plays the role of Reich while Bush herself plays the son. The video is directed by Julian Doyle but was conceived by Terry Gilliam and Bush, and it's simply wonderful to behold. And the song? Faultless!

Watch and listen

Nick Lowe - Cruel To Be Kind

Nick Lowe is one of the best tunesmiths around, and "Cruel To Be Kind" (1979), co-written with Ian Gomm, his old bandmate from Brinsley Schwarz, is one of his greatest achievements. The song is featured on the Labour Of Lust album that's just been re-released and is without a doubt the best track there. Does pop music get much better than this?

Watch and listen

Labour of Lust (Expanded Edition)

Bryan Adams featuring Melanie C - When You're Gone

How about a great sing-a-long track by the not so great Bryan Adams AND the even lesser great Melania C this evening? Well, to be truthful, Bryan Adams is not all bad, as he's had a few great songs along the way, and "When You're Gone" (1998) is as catchy as they come.

Watch and listen

Ramones in new Mojo issue

The latest issue of Mojo, hitting newsstands soon, is dedicated to a major feature on legendary New York group Ramones. The acompanying CD features tracks by T.Rex, New York Dolls, The Shangri-Las, The Trashmen, Ronnie Spector and others that influenced the band responsible for classics like "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker", "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue". Also in Mojo #210 are features on Fela Kuti, Robbie Robertson, Derek And The Dominos, The Low Anthem and more. You can read more here.


Rihanna on the cover of Rolling Stone

The cover of the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone looks pretty good, with a nice shot of Rihanna. Boy, her hair is red! Read more about the contents here.

"New" Waterboys music coming soon

In A Special Place - subtitled The Piano Demos For This Is The Sea - will be released on April 25th through EMI. As the title states these are demo versions of songs from The Waterboys' breakthrough album This Is The Sea (1985), including "Don't Bang The Drum", "The Whole Of The Moon", "The Pan Within" and others. The original album consists of nine songs, whereas this album will feature 15 demos in total. A remastered and hugely expanded version of the album was also released in 2004. You can read more about the demos on Mike Scott's website here.

In A Special Place (The Piano Demos For This Is The Sea)

Ministry - Stigmata

Having problems waking up on a Monday morning? We should be able to solve the problem by listening to industrial metal band Ministry and their 1988 track "Stigmata" from the album The Land Of Rape And Honey. Written by frontman Al Jourgensen, it's also featured in a great scene in Richard Stanley's post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie Hardware. If this doesn't give your week a kick start, nothing will.

Watch and listen

The man who murdered Unknown Pleasures

Peter Hook, of Joy Division and New Order, never had a reputation for being an especially nice guy, but he's a hell of a bass player with a very distinct style where he treats his bass almost like a guitar. Refusing to revive New Order, he's instead formed his own band, the "super group" Freebass which has yet to make a dent in... well, anything.

So instead he's opted to tour the world playing the classic Joy Division debut, Unknown Pleasures (1979), in its entirety. Bad idea, which he has rightly been criticized for. When Hook and his band The Light visited Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo last night, it was also without the aid of back up-singer Rowetta Idah, formerly of Happy Mondays. It turned out to be a grim night, indeed.

First of all, Peter Hook can't sing. Also, he can't sing and play at the same time. But wanting to be a front man, he's recruited an extra bass player to do all the work, while he concentrates on the singing himself. A terrible idea as he can barely carry a tune, and least of all emulate the great Ian Curtis who took his own life prior to the release of Joy Divisions second album, Closer (1980). When Hook is trying to sound like Curtis, the words are uttered more like farts, and at no time during the entire show does he sound even vaguely similar to Curtis. The former singer's tortured, haunted voice, so full of dread, hurt, confusion and vulnerability, is replaced by a guy who might as well have tried to sing the phone book. And as the great bass player doesn't play much more than the intros to the songs, it gets truly pathetic. He's standing in front, vainly trying to pose as a rock star which he by no means resembles, and he seems quite uncomfortable too, the crowd not being overtly enthusiastic.

This is the sight of a man who has left his dignity in a long forgotten sewer somewhere ages ago. He pisses all over the memory of Ian Curtis, he also pisses all over one of rock music's great albums. All we can do now is play the album as it's supposed to sound, in an attempt to grab it back from the clutches of the scavenger Peter Hook. I can barely remember having seen or heard anything as embarrasing as this before, and I have seen Stiltskin!

Nothing good about the gig at all then? Not really. The band was really not that bad, but I pity the musicians who have to be part of this rubbish in order to make a living.

søndag 27. mars 2011

New Order - True Faith

I never tire of this video - or song for that matter. "True Faith" (1987) is my favorite New Order song by a long shot, and the video showing the two guys slapping each other, the loonies jumping up and down and around and around in their harlequin costumes and the rest, interspersed with some shots of the band performing, is brilliant, pure genius really.

Watch and listen

Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy

Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" (1984) is a synthpop classic, the trio's debut single and finest moment. In the accompanying music video lead singer Jimmy Somerville's tries to chat up a guy in the shower and is later attacked by the same guy and his friends for being gay. It was being made as a means to openly adress the prejudices against homosexuals, and also the loneliness felt by many "smalltown boys" - and girls for that matter. It ends with Somerville sitting alone on a train, heading for London. The song in itself is really beautiful.

Watch and listen

20 Joy Division/New Order favorites

Tonight I'll be seeing Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook with band perform the classic Unknown Pleasures (1979) album. I'm a bit skeptical, but we'll see. It might be good. Anyway, here are 20 Joy Division/New order favorites. There is one cover (Iron & Wine's wonderful take on "Love Vigilantes") and two Electronic tracks (the group NO lead singer Bernard Sumner had with former The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr in the 90's). I wasn't able to link the list to my WiMP account, but if you subscribe to a good streaming service, you'll be able to put it together. It will sound excellent!

1. Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
2. New Order - "True Faith"
3. Joy Division - "She's Lost Control"
4. New Order - "Blue Monday"
5. New Order - "Elegia"
6. Joy Division - "Atrocity Exhibition"
7. Iron & Wine - "Love Vigilantes"
8. New Order - "The Perfect Kiss"
9. New Order - "Bizarre Love Triangle"
10. Joy Division - "New Dawn Fades"
11. Electronic - "Forbidden City"
12. New Order - "60 Miles An Hour"
13. New Order - "Temptation"
14. Joy Division - "Isolation"
15. Electronic - "For You"
16. Joy Division - "Atmosphere"
17. New Order - "Confusion"
18. Joy Division - "Heart And Soul"
19. New Order - "Thieves Like Us"
20. New Order - "Sub-Culture"

Stéphane Grappelli & Yehudi Menuhin - Laura

We start off a Sunday with a very pleasant track indeed. The French violinist Stéphane Grappelli and his Russian Jewish American collaborator, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, released several albums together, and one of their shining moments is "Laura". Originally a song written på David Raksin with lyrics by Johnny Mercer for the 1944 movie of the same name, it has been recorded by hundreds of artists. Among a lot of beautiful versions (Chet Baker, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, etc.), Grappelli and Yehudin's is one of the stand-outs, a truly wonderful piece of music. Please enjoy.


lørdag 26. mars 2011

Tony Bennett to duet with Lady GaGa, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones and more

Crooner Tony Bennett turns 85 this August, but it still alive and kicking. According to USA Today he will release a new album of duets in September, a follow-up to his 2006 album Duets: An American Classic. On that album he sang alongside Elton John, James Taylor, The Dixie Chicks, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello and several more of "the greats". This time around the guest list includes Lady GaGa, Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, Michael Bublé (for a return performance), Willie Nelson, Josh Groban and more.

Full story and live interview

A very short interview with Alison Krauss

One of the year's most eagerly awaited albums so far is upon is in two weeks' time, Alison Krauss & The Union Station and their Paper Airplane. The famous bluegrass singer with the angelic voice has been speaking to about the album and you can read the interview here, as well as listen to the title track. Please enjoy it, it's truly beautiful.

Read the interview and listen to "Paper Airplane"

Paper Airplane

Thin Lizzy to return?

Phil Lynott died in 1986, and there have been quite a lot of touring since then. Now guitarist Scott Gorham who is behind most of this suggests Thin Lizzy might return to the studio to record new material for the first time since 1983. PLEASE. DO. NOT. DO. THIS. OK?

Full story here

Jessie J feat. B.o.B. - Price Tag

One of my current favorites is the irresistable "Price Tag" by British newcomer Jessie J - or Jessica Ellen Cornish as her actual name is. This is a truly infectious song with a simple message: Let's enjoy ourselves as people and not care too much about material stuff (doh!)... Jessica has already contributed to songs by Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Mily Cyrus and others, the biggest hit of these so far being Miley Cyrus' monster smash "Party In The U.S.A." "Price Tag" is the opening track - and second single - off Jessie J's debut album "Who You Are". It is also by far the best song on it, featuring the services of British rapper B.o.B. Jessica turns 23 tomorrow and this is my way of saying "happy birthday" to her.

Watch and listen

Brad Paisley - American Saturday Night

Country music has changed since the days of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and the like. One of today's major country stars is Brad Paisley - he's both a killer guitar player and a more than decent songwriter and singer. "American Saturday Night" is today's chosen track and it's rocking! Basically the song is about American diversity - stating simply that it takes a lot of different people to build a nation. If we embrace our differences we'll be alright! Have a great Saturday, everyone!

Watch and listen

fredag 25. mars 2011

Daft Punk - One More Time

Well, it's Friday which for a lot of people means letting their hair down, and just maybe putting on the dancing shoes. If that's the case, you can really move your feet to today's track - Daft Punk's extremely catchy "One More Time" (2000) with the characteristically auto-tuned vocals by the American DJ Romanthony. There's something really fetching about this song which is the French duo's biggest commercial success to date. I love it, and the video is pretty cool too. Enjoy!

Watch and listen

torsdag 24. mars 2011

Sweet - The Ballroom Blitz

"Are you ready, Steve?" "Uh-huh." 
"Alright fellas, let's go!"

One of the most iconic intros in all of rock music leads to our recommended track for the day, Sweets "The Ballroom Blitz" (1973). This is among glam rock's most memorable songs, penned by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the boys who wrote and produced songs for Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Mud, Smokie and several more artists in the seventies. Take it away!
Watch and listen