Thursday, 3 April 2008

#8 - When My Baby's Beside Me by Big Star

'I never travel far, without a little Big Star' as someone once said. I was, however, a little late starting the journey. I remember unsuccessfully trying to buy #1 Record in one of Virgin's early shops in Leeds. Ardent's distribution problems were legendary and I suppose that the chances of any of their records reaching West Yorkshire were slim. The dawn of the CD era saw many labels pushing their back catalogue out in the new format and one of the first CD's I ever bought was the double header of #1 Record and Radio City.

There is little doubt that Big Star worked best during the brief period when Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were in tandem. Radio City (although wonderful) lacks some of its predecessors sense of purpose and, come the recording of Sister Lovers, Alex was away with the fairies. Listening to the three records together is like hearing a band disintegrate in front of your ears.

The song that makes it into the Good Reverend's Hymnal is the glorious 'When My Baby's Beside Me'. This, quite simply, is how bands should sound. Whenever I hear it it makes me feel a whole lot better and that, as they say, will do for me.

Listen: When My Baby's Beside Me - Big Star

Friday, 2 November 2007

#7 - Tear Stained Eye by Son Volt

I saw Uncle Tupelo play live once and was disappointed. Farrar and Tweedy seemed desperate to outdo each other and much of the set was a noisy mess. Not long after they went their separate ways.

For all the melody and rich structure that Tweedy brought to Wilco my heart has always been drawn towards the Son Volt boys. Patchy, inconsistent and, at times far too introspective for their own good they may be. But when they can produce songs like this you can forgive them anything.

Walking down Main Street,
Getting to know the concrete
Looking for a purpose
From a neon sign

Can you deny there's nothing greater...

Listen: Tear Stained Eye - Son Volt

Saturday, 7 July 2007

#6 - 110 In The Shade by Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet emerged from the occasional brilliance and frequent mayhem of Green On Red to pursue a solo career that, though admirable in its longevity and quality, has been largely ignored by the wider world. That's a shame for I am yet to hear a Chuck Prophet song that I didn't like. What I admire most about Chuck and his songs is the obvious care, attention and affection that he brings to his music. He gets a beautifully relaxed feel on his records - you just know that here is a guy who loves his music and wants it to be played as well as it can be and wants to make the recording of it as enjoyable as possible.

110 In The Shade comes from Balinese Dancer, his second solo album. Its a great song, the languid playing conjuring up mental images of a midday sun beating down on a parched landscape. The song closes with Chuck's guitar weaving a meandering and magical path into the middle distance that emphasises his understated but considerable talent.

I could listen to this all day, and frequently do.

Listen: 110 In The Shade - Chuck Prophet

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

#5 - Knock Knock Who's There by Mary Hopkin

Having a favourite song that has won the Eurovision Song Contest does little for anyone's street cred. I could argue that it is a favourite of mine in a sort of post ironic way. I would be lying. I just like it.

Knock Knock Who's There is simply a wonderfully crafted pop song, both lyrically and musically, and Mary's voice sounds just great.

The song featured in the excellent BBC drama Blackpool where the guarded optimism of the lyrics, along with the lightness and playfulness of the melody, neatly juxtaposed with the beginnings of an obviously doomed affair between the main protagonists and served to accentuate the plays darker emotional and social themes.

There, who said I couldn't write meaningless twaddle.

Listen: Knock Knock Who's There - Mary Hopkin

Thursday, 17 May 2007

#4 - The Sun Hasn't Set On This Boy Yet by Nils Lofgren

Recently I've been getting itchy fingers and have been quite fancying playing a bit of music again. When I came across an advert from a band wanting a piano player I applied. They sent me some demos which sounded good and I could hear some spaces into which my clumsy playing could fit. Negotiations commenced and they seemed nice guys but we eventually reached an amicable agreement that it would not work out as my advanced years would not sit easily with the demographic of their audience.

A look in the mirror was enough to tell me they were probably right but how I was deflated.

Sometimes favourite songs are there for when you need them, to cheer you up, to calm you down or, as in this case, to rebuild the broken down ruins that were once your confidence.

Sing it for me Nils...

Listen: The Sun Hasn't Set On This Boy Yet - Nils Lofgren

Monday, 14 May 2007

#3 - Southtown Girls by The Hold Steady

Sometimes a tune becomes a favourite because it has lived with you almost all your life. Sometimes a tune becomes a favourite simply because you have not been able to take it off the turntable for the past week.

Southtown Girls falls into the latter category.

Maybe in another weeks time I will have forgotten it. Maybe not. The a cappella intro grabs your attention and that first organ sweep has you hooked. As soon as the guitar kicks in you realise that there is no point in fighting it and you just allow yourself to be reeled into a swarming mass of bluesy, swampy, rocky perfection.

It struck me that if I listen to this song for as long as I have listened to some others (see previous post) I will be nearly 80. On so many levels I hope that turns out to be true.

Listen: Southtown Girls - The Hold Steady

Saturday, 12 May 2007

#2 - A Salty Dog by Procol Harum

It is the 4th July 1976 and a balmy summer evening in the grounds of the Castle Museum, York.

We (the two Reverend Doctors and the future Mrs Grace) are watching Procol Harum play a one-off outdoor show. It is one of those rare occasions when music, location, band, audience and ambience combine to perfection.

I have always loved Gary Brookers voice and it has rarely been better than on A Salty Dog. Keith Reid's lyrics manage to stay the right side of the twaddle he was sometimes capable of and the string arrangements provide the perfect support for a great tune.

Procol played this song that night and thirty-odd years later I still doubt that I will ever get tired of hearing it.

Listen: A Salty Dog - Procol Harum