26 Jul 2012
1 note

Billie Holiday & Lester Young - 'Fine And Mellow”

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This incredible recording comes from 1957 TV special, The Sound of Jazz, which brought together 32 of the finest jazz musicians, including Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins and Thelonious Monk (among others). This performance stands out because of two absolute legends though — Billie Holiday and Lester Young.

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Billie and Lester had been close friends, going back a long way, but had become estranged. Apparently, during rehearsals they even kept to different sides of the room, but then look at the connection between them around the 2 minute mark in the video where Lester’s solo begins — the looks that’s passing between him and Billie says so much about the connection they had. Look at Billie’s face as Lester plays one of the most beautiful solos you’ll ever hear. Jazz Critic Nat Hentoof was there, and recalled:

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"Lester got up, and he played the purest blues I have ever heard, and [he and Holiday] were looking at each other, their eyes were sort of interlocked, and she was sort of nodding and half-smiling. It was as if they were both remembering what had been, whatever that was. And in the control room we were all crying. When the show was over, they went their separate ways"

- Jazz: A History of America’s Music

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…they both died less than 2 years later

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Interestingly, the version of the song you hear being performed in this video is not the one available on The Sound Of Jazz companion album. The tracks on that album are taken from a rehearsal that preceeded the show—as such, it doesn’t feature several musicians (as they refused the be on the record) and also includes a few others who weren’t on TV. Most importantly though, it doesn’t include the version of 'Fine And Mellow' here, which, I think, is probably as it should be—if you were just to listen to it, sure it’d be beautiful, but when you watch it you realise there is so much more there than the music. What you’re actually doing is witnessing a private conversation between two people, remembering a shared past. Magic.

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KS



23 Jul 2012

Rage Against The Machine - 'Renegades of Funk'

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It’s always the same, you go to a rock club and a Rage Against The Machine song comes on. Every time, without fail, it’s 'Killing In The Name'. Poor old 'Renegades of Funk'. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

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Recorded by RATM in 2000, the band had already broken up by the time the record was released so the video was made up of lots of stock footage mainly of funk and hip hop events, and of Civil Rights events. They played it live, for the first time, at the Coachella festival after they reformed in 2007.

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The song was, in fact, originally record by Africa Bambaataa in 1983, and here, for your viewing pleasure is the video:

I think my favourite part is the sheer amount of WTF that’s going on in that outfit. I’d like to think if Rage had actually shot a video for it they would’ve worn something of that ilk too. Or maybe not.

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KS



29 Jun 2012

Oscar Brown Jr - 'Signifyin' Monkey'  (live on Chic-A-Go-Go, 1996)

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I’ve written about Oscar Brown Jr and his brilliantly witty songs on here before, but I heard this song yesterday and thought it was definitely worth looking further into.

Initially the lyrics reminded me of 'Straighten Up And Fly Right' (mainly because of the monkey, I’ll be honest) so I thought I’d take a look at the similarities. What I found was even more interesting though, so hang in there, we’re about to get into some hardcore literary theory.

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The Signifying Monkey is a character in Afro-American folklore and has appeared in lots of songs, usually talking to his friends, the Lion and the Elephant. The stories usually unfold like this:

"The Signifying Monkey insulting the Lion, but claiming that he is only repeating the Elephant’s words. The Lion then confronts the Elephant, who soundly beats the Lion. The Lion later comes to realize that the Monkey has been signifyin(g) and has duped him and returns angrily" (wiki)

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In case it’s not clear what “Signifyin’” is, let me elucidate for you…

Signifyin(g) (vernacular) is a practice in African American culture, involving a verbal strategy of indirection that exploits the gap between the denotative and figurative meanings of words.” (wiki)

Clear? No? Well, what if I told you it’s also very closely related to the concept of signification put forward by Swiss Semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure?

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"Thinking about the black concept of Signifiyin(g) is a bit like stumbling unaware into a hall of mirrors: the sign itself appears to be doubled, at the very least, and (re)doubled upon ever closer examination. It is not the sign itself, however, which has multiplied. If orientation prevails over madness, we soon realize that only the signifier has been doubled and (re)doubled, a signifier in this instance that is silent, a "sound-image" as Saussure defines the signifier, but a "sound-image" sans the sound. The difficulty that we experience when thinking about the nature of the visual (re)doubling at work in a hall of mirrors is analogous to the difficulty we shall encounter in relating the black linguistic sign, "Signification," to the standard English sign, "signification." This level of conceptual difficulty stems from – indeed, seems, to have been intentionally inscribed within – the selection of the signifier, "signification." For the standard English word is a homonym of the Afro-American vernacular word. And, to compound the dizziness and giddiness that we must experience in the vertiginous movement between these two "identical" signifiers, these two homonyms have everything to do with each other and, then again, absolutely nothing"

(Henry Louis Gates, Jr. ‘The Signifying Monkey: a Theory of African-American Literary Criticism’ P44—45)

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Still no? Basically, it’s a series of taunts or boasts that are made in such a way as to obscure, mislead or misdirect about the speaker’s intention. Or, as in the case of this Oscar Brown Jr number, someone’s who’s just trying to stir it up. Got that? Right. Phew. Good. 

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Just take a look at the lyrics, they’re cheeky and a whole lot of fun!:

"Said the signifyin’ monkey to the lion one day:
"Hey, there’s a great big elephant down the way
Goin’ ‘round talkin’ ,I am sorry to say,
About your momma in a
scandalous way.
He’s talkin’ ‘bout your momma and your grandma, too
And he don’t show so much respect for you.
You want to chat?I sure am glad.
'Cause what he said about your momma, it made
me mad”.”

(Read the rest of the lyrics on Pancocojams)

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And that, may be the only time today you experience an unintentional linguistics lesson via a monkey making "yo’ momma" jokes. Enjoy!

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KS



28 Jun 2012
11 notes

Eddie Vedder - ‘Hard Sun’ (live from Water on the Road DVD, 2011)

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Eddie Vedder recorded 'Hard Sun' for the soundtrack to Into The Wild. While it was 'Guaranteed', taken from the same album, that was the award-winner, 'Hard Sun' was also released with a video and managed to reach #13 on the US Modern Rock chart. 

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'Hard Sun' was one of two cover versions on the album (the other being 'Society', originally by Jerry Hannan) and is actually very faithful to the original, by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Peterson.

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Peterson released the song under the name of Indio on 1989 album, Big Harvest. While the album was a bit of a flop, it’s notable that some pretty significant musicans played on it—including Joni Mitchell providing backing vocals on 'Hard Sun'. Peterson faded back into obscurity and became a bit of a recluse after being dropped by his label, but came back into the public eye recently to bring a court case against Eddie Vedder for changing the lyrics to 'Hard Sun':

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In a Manhattan federal-court suit, Peterson alleges that "Vedder altered certain key lyrics of ‘Hard Sun’ … eroding the integrity of the composition."
(NYPost)

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Let’s take a look at those lyrics changes then…

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Vedder sings:

"When she comes to greet me
She is mercy at my feet
I see her inner charm
She just throws it back at me”

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Peterson sings:

"When she comes to greet me
She is mercy at my feet
When I stay to pillage her
She just throws it back at me”

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…and that is it. Has that eroded the integrity of the song? I’m not convinced.

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Either way, have a listen to the song. It’s big, it has beautiful harmonies, it bounds and it exudes the heat of the big, hard sun it describes. It’s great!

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KS



21 Jun 2012
1 note

Primal Scream - 'Kill All Hippies' (live at Glastonbury, 2003)

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The keen festival goers out there might know that in most years this weekend would see nearly 200, 000 punters packing up their ponchos, suncream and wellies, and heading to Pilton in Somerset for the one and only Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts AKA Glastonbury AKA Glasto. Unfortunately, mainly due to a shortage of available portaloos, this year’s event was cancelled.

To remind you what you are missing here is Primal Scream performing 'Kill All Hippies' on the Pyramid Stage in 2003. Considering the festival’s roots and general vibe you think they could have been more considerate in their song choice, but what a baseline!

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Looking outside it looks like it would have been a seriously wet one again this year so year so maybe the cancellation was a blessing in disguise. But roll on Glastonbury 2013; if it’s a sunny one we’ll all be quoting the legendary Leonard Cohen, who graced the Pyramid Stage with a sublime performance in 2008, “Hallelujah”!

(All the versions I found of his performance at Glastonbury were filmed on camera phones so here is the great man performing 'Hallelujah' @ at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Enjoy.)

NC



20 Jun 2012
1 note

Newton Faulkner - 'Superstition'  (live on Good News Week, 2009)

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You’ve probably heard Newton Faulkner do his guitar-tappy thing before, but you should definitely watch this. Legend has it he only had half an hour or so before the show to work out how to play it. 

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My favourite part:

"Yeah I’ve got like a kind of bass drummy thing there, and a thing there, and a thing there. I’ve got like a scratchy thing as well, so err what can you do?"

…*plays like a genius*

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In case your knowledge of mid 80s - mid 90s Australian comedy isn’t quite up to scratch, you might be interested to know what Good News Week host, Paul McDermott used to do. Here is your answer:

Love it.

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KS



19 Jun 2012
1 note

John Mayer - 'Free Fallin” (live, 2008)

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This week Tom Petty plays his first UK shows in 13 years (and I’m totally going, squeeee!) so it feels fitting for today’s choice to be this cover of Petty-classic, 'Free Fallin”

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I’ve wittered on before about how underrated John Mayer is as a musician (as everyone seems to pre-occupied by him as a celebrity), but again, it’s worth pointing out, this is a really good version of the song, and he certainly does it justice.

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And in the spirit of celebrating Tom Petty’s music, here’s another cover version from the catalogue. Here’s Johnny Cash covering 'I Won't Back Down' from his American III: Solitary Man album in 2000 (this was actually Cash’s 85th!!! album).

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KS


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