Any recording that has the pairing of Keith Richards and Tom Waits has got my money before I have heard a single note. When that song is Shenandoah, the lovely American folk classic then I am positively salivating at the prospect. In the hand of two grizzled buccaneers like Waits and Richards this song of leaving and longing does not disappoint. Waits voice reflects the right sort of weariness of a man saying goodbye to his beloved home country, while Richards adds some sparse guitar melody and rum laden harmonies.
In the mid-19th century Shenandoah was a popular sailor’s song, hence its inclusion in the recent release of ‘Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chantays’. The album is a follow up to the 2006 Rogues Gallery which was conceived by Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean Director Gore Verbinski. Similarly the album is produced again by Hal Willner.
Johhny Depp/ Courtney Love/Tom Waits
The album opens with Shane McGowan in classic form with a rollicking The Leaving of Liverpool, supported on guitar by Depp and Verbinski.The album then, like its predecessor veers into a potpourri of musical genres covered by an equally diverse collection of musicians. There are single interpretations as well as several duos such as Patti Smith and Johnny Depp, Michael Stipe and Courtney Love. Every pirate’s fair maiden, Marianne Faithfull is joined by the McGarrigle sisters who offer some sweet harmonies in contrast to Marianne’s whiskey and cigarette soaked but sexy rasp.
Initial standouts include an uptown top ranking Macy Gray singing in such salubrious tones that you want to do everything she warns you against.The Americans make an appearance in Sweet and Low, an undulating yet powerful evocation of the elements to aid a sailor’s homecoming: the lyrics penned by no less than Lord Alfred Tennyson. The Broken Social Scene offer a stark version of Wild Goose, in previous carnations a halyard song, but this version is so stripped back it would be more suitable
to floating along in a breezeless sea rather than a call to raise the mainsail. In lighter tones Ivan Neville does his New Orleans chops on Mr Stormalong a song about the legendary sailor giant. For the more irreverent,Iggy Pop parades the main deck with Asshole rules the Navy. The joy of this album lies in the fact that there is so much to dip into and a wealth of tracks to add to playlists for different moods and occasions.
Much like the first album this album offers insight into the sailor’s life, an often harsh, deadly and lonely
existence. As the sailors of yesteryear took their musical styles and traditions around the globe, so this album returns to them their songs in a glorious hybrid of genres that they themselves helped create
On 19.4.1975: slightly underage I managed to get into the student hall at Kingston Polytechnic. The occasion was to see Dr Feelgood. Their first album Down by the Jetty had been released at the end of January and the band had just completed the Naughty rhythms tour with Kokomo and Chillie Willie and the red hot peppers. The music press was abuzz with Canvey Islands’ finest. Whilst I couldn’t muster up any mates for the occasion I was desperate to get an injection of R& B from the good Dr for myself.
Feeling embolden by a couple of queasy pints of Newcastle Brown I was down the front when the band took the stage. Unfolding in front of me was a world of speed and booze fuelled menace: Lee Brilleaux with his dirty white suit holding the microphone phallicaly by his crotch staring at the crowd with a hint
of ultra-violence as he sang the oil city blues and blew the harp like a man possessed. Sparko and the Big Figure kept a steady rhythm in the background dressed more like clerks than musos. Then there was Wilco, with bowl haircut, eyes staring and his manic spastic runs across the stage firing off chords and riffs with amphetamine intensity. It reeked of a world of spivs and switchblades back alleys and danger.
It was a moment and feeling that I couldn’t replicate again. As good the first two albums were they didn’t live up to the live performance. Stupidity went to some lengths to restore the balance and went to No 1 in the UK charts but soon my attentions were diverted by the gathering punk storm. And then the band imploded, Wilco left and it would never be the same.
But when I heard about the release of Oil City Confidential, the film about the Feelgoods by Julian Temple I put it on the list as a must see .OK old news I hear you say. Indeed the film has been out a few years now but in some parts it seems impossible to obtain a copy despite frantic searches to
video and record stores. Then last week I hit the jackpot when I found a full length stream on a well-known video website. And all that excitement and energy ofthat night in Kingston and of my youth came roaring back.
The film traces the formation of the Feelgoods in Canvey Island to their eventual success. The story is told by the three remaining original members, Wilco, Big figure and Sparko.The telling of story also serves as a fascinating social document of England in the 1970s. There is enough live footage to be transported back to the sheer energy of their shows. We are also taken round Canvey Island on a Dr Feelgood tour and one realises that only a place so bleak and quietly despairing could give rise to
such a ferocious musical intensity.
Of course the film is not without its poignancy. Lee Brilleaux died in 1994, and it’s moving to see him here so alive and energetic. Wilko recently declared his diagnose of terminal cancer and has played the last of his farewell gigs. This film will serve as a great legacy not only to both their contributions to the band, but the Feelgoods contribution to the history of English Rhythm n Blues.
Viewing them now amongst a lot of the manufactured sound that seems to find its way into our living rooms it’s easy to see that the Feelgoods were the raw and real deal.
A must view film for all music fans
For all you denim and check shirt wearing blues rock fans out there, a clip of the late Rory Gallagher who died this day in 1995.
Gallagher was the inspiration of many an up and coming guitarist, including Slash, The Edge, Gary Moore and Johhny Marr.
For those on a Gallagher pilgrimage, there are 2 statues in Ireland dedicated to him.: One in Cork where he was raised, the other recently unveiled at Ballyshannon , Co Donegal where he was born. There is an annual blues festival held there in his honour.
Gallagher was always associated with his Fender Stratocaster, which apparently was the first ever Strat in Ireland. Gallagher bought it for 100 pounds in 1963. Over the years he extensively modified the guitar.
Rory Gallagher: Fender Stratocaster
Here is a clip from the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test. Filmed at the Shepard's Bush Empire London.
Elvis Costello and Mumford and Sons have joined forces to record Bruce Springsteen's Ghost of Tom Joad . This is released by Bono's One campaign and is a protest against extreme poverty . It's release is timed in advance of next weeks G8 summit.
Coming out of the their own personal problems with drug busts and the psychedelic mess of Their Satanic Majesties, the Stones create a roots and rock album, that would come to define their sound over the forthcoming 6 years.
It seems fitting that my first post here on the Music Bar is a retrospective on the Rolling Stones album Beggers Banquet, released in 1968.It was this album that started my love affair with the Blues/ Rock and the Stones. I first heard it in the early 70s thanks to an elder brother who due to a regular pay check and more advanced tastes was able to fund and inform my musical education.
Like many I regard BB as the birth of the golden age of the Stones: A period that saw them at the peak of their creativity with BB and the next three albums, Let it Bleed, Sticky fingers and Exile On my Street. It is no coincidence that Jimmy Miller had come on board as producer and he over saw production on all the forementioned albums. Beggars Banquet is also Brian Jones last album and it is poignant to hear his inspirational slide guitar on the track No
Expectations, a road weary song about love and farewells. Within a year Jones would be dead and the Stones would continue their upward trajectory with Mick Taylor.
It was the fingerpicking opening of Prodigal Son and the guttural blues voice of Jagger that transported me away from the suburban rooftops of south west London to the dusty roads of the Mississippi and in doing so opened up new worlds and possibilities. Unfortunately the early pressings of the album did not credit the Rev Robert Wilkins as the songwriter of Prodigal Son but this was rectified on later pressings.
Women in various guises populate BB. Having shown us the Delta and life on the road, the Stones then takes us upstairs to witness their groupie filled life of sex and drugs on the debauched celebration of Stray Cat Blues. From the opening twang of guitar the song is filled with raw sexual energy and debauched menace. Only a few years prior the newspapers were asking parents if they would let their daughter go out with a rolling stone; playing up to this image Jagger leaves the listener no doubt as to what the answer should be. However it seems that the girls aren’t as innocent as papers and parents would like to think.
On Parachute Woman Jagger uses all the blues sexual innuendo he can muster on this hard chugging blues rock , whilst on the acoustic country blues of Factory Girl Jagger waits for a working class girl to finish her shift: it seems hard to reconcile the lascivious female devouring Jagger to the one who waits for a girl, ‘who wears curlers in her hair’…whose ‘ knees are much to fat’…and who‘has stains down her dress’ A far cry from the women that Jagger was surrounding himself in real life!
Continuing the theme of the working class , Keith Richards gets singing duties on Salt of the Earth, which starts with an acoustic strum and builds up to crescendo complete with a female gospel group.
Whilst the Stones deny that they were a voice of a generation they make some political comment on Street Fighting Man which at the time was banned by the BBC for fear of inciting riots as a wave of student rebellion and riots were taking place across Europe and America. However the song doesn’t point the way at Revolution as Jagger, despite pushing the boundaries as a performer and rock singer was not a revolutionary in the same way as Lennon or US bands such as the MC5. Jagger posits the questions about the validity about revolutionary change but it seems his own position is untenable ‘what can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock n roll band'
Playing roles is Jaggers forte as he dons lucifers cloak and becomes the prince of darkness himself in the infamous Sympathy for the Devil, a track that takes us on historical journey from Pontius Pilate , through early European wars, the Russian revolution, and the Nazi blitzkrieg to the then present time killings of the Kennedys. The song cemented the public perception image of Jagger and the Stones as evil Satanists and devil worshipers. It was an image they hadn’t fought very hard to dispel with their previous album Their Satanic Majesties Request, and Jagger also took to wearing occult symbols in performances. The song itself had several carnations as documented in the film Sympathy for the Devil directed by Jean Luc Goddard before they settled on a version with African conga drumming and primal yelps.
Whilst the Blues was a serious proposition for the stones, it seems that country music was harder for Jagger to take as seriously, although later under the influence of Gram Parsons, Jagger / Richards would write the country ballad Wild Horses, and the country rock of Dead Flowers and Sweet Virginia. Here in BB we have Dear Doctor with its comical overtones and Jagger hamming up his twang as a country boy on the morning of his wedding.
The closing track on side one Jig Saw Puzzle, vitalised by some tasty slide licks, has Jagger in a slightly verbose lyrical mood a la Dylan:a role that doesn’t suit him as much as a rock/blues lyricist.
Never without some controversy, the release of the album was held up over a dispute over the cover. The Stones had provided a picture of toilet wall with graffiti but Decca refused to release it. After 4 months the Stones comprised with a white album cover much like the Beatles ‘White Album’ Embossed in calligraphy across the front was the title Beggars Banquet and a RSVP on the bottom left. The inside sleeve was a photo of the band feasting in fine medieval style.
Beggars Banquet explores Rock, blues rock, country and country blues with a dash of gospel thrown in. It signifies the genres the band would explore within the following three albums, a sound that would take them to be the billed as the ‘Greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World’.
The album still feels alive all these years later and I still get a tingle down by spine when I hear those opening bars to Prodigal Son!
A big welcome to everyone who has come into The Music Bar. Like in any bar you may frequent, conversation often turns to music as well as books and films . The Music Bar is no different and I welcome any comments , posts, suggestions ,and reviews . I hope you enjoy the site.