Thursday, 6 March 2014

Lent Playlist 2014

Each day of Lent I'm savouring and spending time with a track on a different theme. Click links for Youtube versions... The full YouTube playlist is here.

Day 1: Neil Young (2006): Living With War - peace
Day 2: Stornoway (2010): We are the Battery Human - freedom
Day 3: Washington Phillips (1927): Lift Him Up - praise
Day 4: Gillian Welch (2001): I Dream a Highway - journey
Day 5: Linton Kwesi Johnson (1979): Sonny's Lettah (Anti-sus Poem) - power
Day 6: The National (2010): Runaway - the way of the cross
Day 7: Tupac (1999): Unconditional Love - love
Day 8: Velvet Underground (1968): Jesus - forgiveness
Day 9: Blind Willie Johnson (1930): Soul of a Man - searching
Day 10: Karen Dalton (1971): Something's on Your Mind - change
Day 11: Bruce Springsteen (1982): Reason to Believe - belief
Day 12: R.E.M (2001): I've Been High - experience
Day 13: Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama (2001): Give a Man a Home - struggle
Day 14: Johnny Cash (2000): Wayfaring Stranger - death
Day 15: Gil Scott Heron (2010): I'm New Here - repentance
Day 16: Sibylle Baier (1973): Tonight - prayer
Day 17: Nina Simone (1964): Mississippi Goddam - righteous anger
Day 18: Doves (2002): Satellites - hope
Day 19: The Melodians (1970): Rivers of Babylon - protest
Day 20: The Low Anthem (2010): Don't let nobody turn you around - perseverance
Day 21: Sufjan Stevens (2003): Oh God, Where are you now? - comfort
Day 22: Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip (2007): Letter from God to Man - world
Day 23: Billy Bragg & Wilco via Woody Guthrie (1998): Christ for President - politics
Day 24: Leonard Cohen (1970): Love Calls you by Your Name - invitation
Day 25: New Order (1985): Love Vigilantes - war
Day 26: Tom Waits (1987): Way Down in the Hole - darkness
Day 27: The Flaming Lips (1999): What is the Light? - light
Day 28: The Rolling Stones (1972): I Just Want to See His Face - presence
Day 29: The Counting Crows (1999): Colourblind - introspection
Day 30: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1990): Foi Na Cruz - atonement
Day 31: Rufus Wainwright (2004): Agnus Dei - sacrifice
Day 32: Gavin Bryars (1971): Jesus' Blood Has Never Failed Me Yet - faithfulness
Day 33: Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1945): Up Above My Head - joy
Day 34: World Party (1993): Let the Kingdom Come - kingdom
Day 35: Bob Dylan (1981): Every Grain of Sand - omniscience
Day 36: Mary Gauthier (2005): Mercy Now - mercy
Day 37: Prince (1987): The Cross - the cross
Day 38: Joseph Arthur (2000): In the Sun - Maundy Thursday
Day 39: The Cure (1989): Plainsong - Good Friday
Day 40: Sam Cooke (1964): A Change is Gonna Come - Holy Saturday

Saturday, 18 January 2014

LP of the week: Randy Newman - Good Old Boys

Getting into the whole vinyl thing has re-invigorated my music listening in surprising ways. I've rediscovered the pleasure of the 'hunt'. Setting myself a £5 per record spending limit rules out most record shops as a place to buy LPs. Consequently I'm picking up vinyl from charity shops. I love the feeling of rooting through all the Neil Diamond, Mario Lanza, Val Doonican (just how many records did these guys sell?!), when an interesting record pops into view and my heart skips a beat. With trembling fingers I slip the vinyl from the sleeve to see what condition it's in. With time suspended for a second, either crushing disappointment or absolute elation follows. I've learnt that the sleeve condition rarely reflects what's inside. It's like unwrapping Christmas presents as a kid.

Some of my current favourite albums - picked up for £1 - are all discovered this way: Odetta's 'Mighty World', New Order's 'Low Life', Louden Wainwright III's 'Album III',  and Randy Newman's 'Good Old Boys'.

The first listen of 'Good Old Boys' was a strange experience. Naively, I slipped it onto my deck and got it playing with my 11 year old son in the room. Newman's distinctively nasal voice forces it way through the speakers. 'Isn't this the guy who sings the Toy Story song?' asks my son. 'Yeah it is', I reply, whilst simultaneously taking in the lyrics of 'Rednecks' - a song satirizing the racism of America's deep south and the hypocrisy of the northern states. The chorus forces me to lift the player's arm from the record with the disappointment I'd have to wait until he's in bed before I can have a go at this one properly.

Quite how Newman went from 'Good Old Boys' to the Toy Story soundtracks is a mystery to me. But this album is an amazing piece of work - the song-writing is devastating, clever, poignant. I can't think of any current songwriters who might produce art like this. A reflection of a moment in history - 1974 (the year after I was born) - it still resonates today. 'Mr President (Have pity on the Working Man) could be written for the UK 2014. I love this album. In a rather strange way, it feels like it found me.