Loving the Music - the Sound of July: 22nd - 31st July
The last stretch of July was jam-packed with a remarkably eclectic mix of music. But isn't what you expect from Loving the Music?
This series of blog articles cover a week of the feature posts from the Loving the Music Facebook page and group. This makes it easier for our music-loving community to search through our ever-growing archive of songs, backstories and trivia.
July 22nd - 31st 2020 - Musicians Featured:
Roger Waters - TKZee - Freshlyground - Msaki - Kate Bush - Bob Dylan - Alan Cameron Trio - David Ledbetter - Sean Koch - Humble Souls - Groove Collective - Jamiroquai - Bardcore - Lao Tizer Band - Fantastic Negrito - Hildegard Von Blingen - The Congo Cowboys - The White Stripes
22nd July: This week, 30-years ago, Roger Waters performed one of the most talked-about shows in popular music of the time. His performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall on the famous no-man’s-land on the Potsdamer Platz between East and West Berlin attracted a crowd of 350,000 people to listen and witness what promised to be a show to remember; some of it not for the right reasons. Today I am sharing three of the performances from the event.
In the weeks leading up to the concert, the area had been de-mined and on the night of the show, thousands stood atop Hitler’s bunker while they watched Roger Waters perform from roughly the same spot where Hitler had stood to address the populace half a century before.
Waters had no intention of ever performing The Wall again but had mentioned in an interview that if ever the Berlin Wall came down he may consider it. When the historical demolition happened he was uncertain if the idea would work, but entered negotiations in 1989, and the rest is musical history.
The stage design consisted of a 170-meter long and 25-meter high wall, most of which was constructed before the show and the rest built progressively through the first part of the show. The wall was then knocked down at the end of the show. Before we go into more details of the show, let’s listen to today’s first track of three from this historic performance. Here’s Van Morrison with The Band performing Comfortably Numb.
Today we are celebrating Roger Waters famous performance at the site of the Berlin Wall that happened 30-years ago this week.
Due to the rescheduling of the performance date, the original line-up of guest artists that he had intended could not appear. He was noted as saying that he might ask David Gilmour to play the guitar, which was surprising considering the bad blood between them at the time, but Gilmour claims that no call was ever received.
Eventually, the cast list included, amongst others, draw-card names like Van Morrison, Cindy Lauper, Sinéad O’Connor, Joni Mitchell and actors Albert Finney, Tim Curry and Jerry Hall. The performance was altered a bit from the original composition to allow for, amongst other reasons, the long, winding guitar ramblings of Roger Waters.
It seemed to be the year for record-breaking attendances. 350,000 people attended the show, and before it started the gates were opened to allow another 100,000 waiting fans to watch. This broke the record for a paid-entry event. One week prior to the concert Jean Michel Jarre had broken the record for a free performance with his Paris la Défense show attracting a live audience of two million
The show was beset with technical difficulties which somewhat marred performances. Our second clip is the official BBC4 TV link and shows just this. Roger Waters along with Sinéad O’Connor performs Mother (with rising frustration) to a record crowd.
In closing today’s feature about Roger Water’s live performance of The Wall in Berlin, I’ve chosen the track Goodbye Blue Sky, sung here by Joni Mitchell with Sir Jame Galway on the flute.
Not all of the critics and press were happy with the show, which is evident in Bob Guccione’s excellent retrospective article he wrote about attending the concert, for Spin magazine.
“It was a dramatic occasion, but sort of a stillborn event. The sound wasn’t particularly good and at the beginning of the show, technical problems forced the performers to stop a couple of times. Roger Waters was anticlimatic and, ultimately, a bore. Everything—the night, the hype, the stage, the idea—drowned the performers and the performance. And, like a balloon so big that it pops, that’s what ruined it..... Everything—the night, the hype, the stage, the idea—drowned the performers and the performance. And the very execution of the show, where a stage crew built the great wall out of Styrofoam bricks so that by the end of the first hour (and effectively, long before that), the musicians were completely removed from view, worked against involvement in it. We —all 350,000+ of us—watched 90% of the action on giant video screens built into the wall.”
Whatever anyone may think of the concept, the concert or the performances, you have to admit it was a huge undertaking, and as the old adage says, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’. I hope you enjoyed our 30-year time-warp today. Tomorrow I’ll be bringing you something a little more up-to-date. See you then. 😎
23rd July: I think that everyone is so tired of restrictions, limitations and all the other COVID related problems and we all need some cheering up. In light of this, I have chosen three local songs that always make me smile when I hear them; two from the past, and closing the threesome with my current favourite.
Today starts with TKZee, one of the groups that helped unite South Africans through their music. Tokollo ‘Magesh’ Tshabalala, Kabelo Mabalane and Zwai Bala were the three guys who rocked the nation with their Kwaito beat inspired songs in 1997.
They met at the prestigious St. Stithians College in Sandton and within four years had formed TKZee. When their first hit, Palafala, was released people listened. The use of samples from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi helped the song gain acceptance in a market that was quite segregated.
TKZee still perform regularly and are a much-loved part of South African culture. Kabelo had his dark years with substance abuse, but has turned his life around and is now fitness-guru and ordained Pastor. In 1998 they released the album Haloween which went platinum and won them a SAMA award. My chosen happy track to start this Thursday is TKZee’s fun song Fiasco.
If anyone hadn’t yet heard of Freshlyground soon did when the band performed the theme Waka Waka with Shakira at the 2010 Fifa World Cup and the resulting YouTube clip reached over 2.4 billion views.
Their hectic touring and performance schedule delayed the release of their double-platinum album, Nomvula. In 2019 lead vocalist Zolani Mahola announced that she would be leaving Freshlyground to pursue a solo career. Because of the restrictions, we will have to see what the future holds for the remaining members. Time will tell.
Here’s track two for today - The wonderful voice of Zolani Mahola with Freshlyground’s huge hit Doo Be Doo – get ready to smile.
To close today’s selection of three happy songs to shake the COVID blues I have chosen to share a new favourite of mine, the recent release from the uber-talented Msaki with DJ Prince Kaybee, Fetch Your Life. This song has such a positive message, delivered perfectly in the accompanying video.
I have featured both Prince Kaybee and Msaki before and the more I listen to both of them, the more impressed I am. Prince Kaybee’s feel for dance music is sophisticated and smooth and purely home-grown. Msaki is South Africa's answer to Sade, and her silky voice and songwriting talent are perfectly matched to Prince Kaybee's arrangement.
I urge any music-lover to take note. This is special.
I do hope that my little selection has cheered your day. Putting together today’s posts had brought a smile to my face, so I must be doing something right. Catch you tomorrow with Friday’s selection. See you then. 😎
24th July: I remember when I first heard Wuthering Heights from Kate Bush it was like listening to a bit of musical theatre. It was clever and quirky, and Kate’s voice was unlike anything that was out there at the time. As you have probably realised, this Friday I am featuring the wonderful Kate Bush with three favourite songs of hers.
Music and art were central in Kate’s upbringing. Although both of her parents were in the medical profession, their hobby was dancing and music and her two brothers were involved in the local Folk music scene.
She started writing songs at 11 honed her songwriting skills as a young girl. With the help of David Gilmour, who helped produce her demo, she was signed to EMI and the smash hit debut album, The Kick Inside, was released in 1978. What better way to start this set than with the song that started it all.
We pick up today’s Kate Bush feature with her 1985 album Hounds of Love.
By now, Kate had released four top-selling albums, each with its collection of singles. She had slowly gained control of her album production and from 1982 self-produced all of her releases. Due to the costs of studio hire, Kate built a private home studio where she could work without the pressure of cost.
The resulting album is a masterpiece with two moods. The A-side is Kate at her pop best with a collection accessible hit songs, while the B-side is named The Ninth Wave (from Tennyson’s epic poem, Idylls of Kings) is an interconnected collection of songs joined in one piece of music.
The album was a critical and commercial hit and earned Kate Bush nominations for Best Female Solo Artist, Best Album, Best Single, and Best Producer at the 1986 BRIT Awards. Here’s the track that peaked at #3, Running Up That Hill.
Closing our three-track feature on the enigmatic Kate Bush we pick up in 2005 and the release of her album, Aerial.
This was the first anyone had heard from Katie Bush since 1993, with her The Red Shoes album. She had planned to take a year hiatus, but this had extended to twelve years. In this time she had married and become a mother to ‘Bertie’, with her husband, guitarist Dan McIntosh.
As before, she used the two-mood technique on the double album, including the strange singing of the first 117 digits of Pi and the whole-side Sky of Honey which is one continuous piece of music describing the experience of 24-hours passing. As avant-garde as this may sound. Aerial earned her two nominations at the 2006 BRIT Awards.
March 2014, saw Kate Bush announce her first live concert dates in decades: Her 22-date Before the Dawn residency at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, which ran from 26 August to 1 October 2014. Unsurprisingly, the tickets sold out within 15 minutes. The album of the concert, Before the Dawn, was released and, due to the publicity of this momentous concert, placed Kate Bush as the first female British musician to have eight albums in the UK Top 40 charts simultaneously!
Although she has only produced ten studio albums during her career, there have been numerous compilations and limited-edition boxed-sets released over recent years. I do hope we hear from Kate Bush again some time, but even if we don’t, her legacy of works ensures her a place in our popular music culture.
I would love to share a track from the show, but there are none available, only teasers, possibly because of copyright laws. I have however included a link in the comments section to a compilation of reviews, crowd responses and clips from the show. It will give you an idea as to how loved Kate Bush is and the anticipation leading up to the show.
Instead, I have chosen another favourite of mine, again from The Kick Inside album, here’s The Man with the Child in His Eyes. I do hope you are having a happy Friday and a great weekend looming. Thanks for joining Kate and me today. We loved having you! Catch you soon 😎
25th July: Today sees a landmark occasion in musical history. 55-years ago, Dylan shocked the Folk music fraternity by going electric, and today we are celebrating this momentous event with three great tracks.
The venue was the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where the year before, Dylan had gained national exposure and earned himself the title of the new champion of Folk music. Although he had recorded an electric version of Like a Rolling Stone a few weeks before the 1965 festival, it was only released days prior to the event, so not many fans knew what was to come.
The festival organisers, including Folk music legend Pete Seeger, were alarmed when they saw Dylan’s crew setting up banks of sound equipment. Backed by Al Kooper, Dylan hit the stage with a blistering version of Maggie’s Farm. The fans must have felt betrayed, and when Bob launched into his electric version of Like a Rolling Stone, the audience erupted into a booing, jeering mass.
This behaviour had never happened in all the years of the festival and the organisers wanted to pull the power but were stopped by members of the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary and Dylan’s manager.
Before we go further into the story of the day and what transpired, let’s join Dylan for that epic moment. Here’s a surprisingly good quality clip of Dylan performing Maggies Farm. You only really get an idea of the crowd reaction at the end of the song. As for me, I think this version rocks. Enjoy.
We’re discussing the day that Dylan went electric today, and I don’t think that Bob could have possibly realised how possessive his early fans were about Folk music, but the reaction to his first electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 soon set that straight.
There are varying accounts of Dylan’s response to the heckling, booing crowd. Some say he was upset and shaken. Dylan himself reflected some years later that his introduction at the festival by Ronnie Gilbert when she said “You know him, Take him, He’s yours” was an omen. “What a crazy thing to say!” he said “Screw that. As far as I knew, I didn’t belong to anybody then or now.” He is also cited as saying “I electrified one half of his audience, and electrocuted the other”.
After Dylan and his backing band were booed from the stage by the very fans who should have understood that ‘times they were a-changing’, he was persuaded to return to the stage and perform an acoustic number. With guitar in hand and to rapturous applause, he performed “Mr Tambourine Man’ and ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ as his farewell to the Newport Festival. The next time he would appear was in 2002, to an audience with very different expectations. Here’s that historic version of “it’s All Over Now Baby Blue’
To close today’s feature about Dylan’s first electric performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, I have a cleverly compiled video that shows Dylan an early ‘electric’ performance linked with some of the fan responses that makes for interesting viewing
Bob Dylan’s performance that day ensured he would be remembered as the artist who defied the rules and followed his heart. Any resistance to new forms and genres of music are often compared to the Folk Music fraternity’s reaction to Dylan's change in musical style back in 1965.
Folk Music has always championed civil rights, and will always have its place in culture. The mere fact that what was once a single music genre now has numerous sub-cultures connected to it shows how music changes over history. And that, folks, IS the story of music. A much as we may feel comfortable in a genre or era of music, there is always someone out there to shake up our sensibilities, and thank goodness for that!
As mentioned, the closing video is of Dylan and The Band performing an unreleased number, ‘Tell Me Momma’, at The Olympia in Paris in 1966. You’ll see in the cutaways that some of the fans were still pretty opinionated about Dylan’s historic decision. Thanks for celebrating this moment in musical history with me today. May your Saturday be wonderful and full of fun. Catch you tomorrow. 😎
26th July: It is going to be a busy Sunday in the Loving the Music household today, hence the early feature post. I hope it sets a relaxed tone for your day. I decided to share some tracks chosen from Cape Town’s huge talent-base.
We start with a track from an album that was recorded at the Olympia Bakery in Kalk Bay shortly before this landmark establishment closed its doors. “Two nights at Olympia”, the stellar album from the Alan Cameron Trio, is essential listening for lovers of smooth Jazz.
Alan Cameron grew up surrounded by music, with a Jazz pianist father who would arrive home after a gig and jam with his friends until the early hours. A 5-year-old Alan would sit on the stairs listening until his mother, probably realising that sleep was out of the question, would bring him into the lounge to join the fun.
With influences of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and South Africa’s own Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), he started playing the trumpet and the saxophone before settling on the piano and cut his professional teeth playing with the cross-over genres bands that were exploring boundaries in the Cape of the ’80s. He gained prominence as the keyboardist for AfroFunk outfits, Peto and Gecko Moon.
From these local beginnings he has gone on to perform in the UK, Holland and France, capturing audiences with his mix of upbeat jazz swing, ballads and calypso sounds. His trio consists of Wesley Rustin, one of the Cape’s finest bass players, and Simon Annett on drums who interprets Alan’s songs in a very special way.
I urge you to take a listen to this masterful track, and explore the album. Mention must be made of the local heroes of Shoreline Songs, Willem Moller and Robin Auld, for the top-class recording and ongoing dedication to promoting local music. Here’s Beautiful Love from the Alan Cameron Trio. Enjoy.
The second taste of local Cape Town talent is the beautiful song, Like a Lover, sung here by songstress, actress and dancer Cyrille Carreon, with renowned bassist, Hein Van De Geyn, and the guitar genius of David Ledbetter, the multi-talented musical wizard.
I’ve been following Dave’s career since we met in the early eighties when he played a gig at a Stellenbosch burger joint I was working in. He's come a long way since then! I do a bit of a happy dance whenever I come across a clip of his.
I do suggest that lovers of local Jazz visit and subscribe to his YouTube channel (David Ledbetter Music). He isn’t just a world-class musician, but a lovely man along with it. Here’s Like a Lover.
To close today’s selection of local Cape Town talent we head off to the beaches of Kommetjie to join Indie singer/songwriter, Sean Koch and his song Frequency that he released a few months ago.
Sean has been making waves for a few years now and, to me, epitomises the sunny, chilled sound of CapeTown. He has toured the country extensively and has wowed audiences across Europe with his unpretentious sense of uplifting fun that is prevalent in his music.
Frequency was written during the COVID pandemic and discusses the lessons learned before and during the ongoing restrictions. As with all of Sean’s songs, this one is very listenable, clever, upbeat, and purely South African.
Thanks for sharing your listening time with me this morning. I hope your weekend has been wonderful and you are rested and ready for a new week. Catch you then. 😎
27th July: Acid Jazz is one of those grey-area music genres that bubbled up in the London club scene of the mid-eighties. With a sound that percolated elements of Jazz, Soul, Funk, Hip-Hop, Rap, and even Disco, Acid Jazz is often hard to define.
Today I’ve chosen three tracks from Acid Jazz artists that are all quite different but may give you an idea as to the extent of the genre. The name Acid Jazz was coined by a fellow named Chris Bangs, who co-founded the Acid Jazz record label in 1987. The name was a play on the Acid House genre that was the reigning sound of the time.
Artists like Jarimoquai, Humble Souls and the Brand New Heavies became the champions of this, often confusing, sound. I’m starting with a track from an album that I found in a sale bin in 1995 and became a treasured rarity until it sadly went missing ten years later.
The Humble Souls album, Thoughts and Sound Paintings, sums up Acid Jazz perfectly. I can’t find much info on the duo behind the band, London born Hugh Brooker and Simon Anniky, except that the debut and only album was released in 1993 on the Acid Jazz label. Here you’ll hear most of the elements that make up Acid Jazz all in one song – Watch My Garden Grow. When the keyboard kicks in at around 2:40 you’ll understand where the ‘Jazz’ in Acid Jazz comes from.
What had started as a particular London club scene sound was too good not to share, and thanks to a partnership between British promotor, Maurice Bernstein and his South African partner, Jonathan Rudnick, the sound soon spread to the States. The entrepreneurial team launched the Groove Acadamy party at the nomadic Giant Step club, in the basement of the iconic Metropolis Café in Union Square.
The city embraced the new sound and an exciting wave of Acid Jazz bands emerged. This included the band Groove Collective, formed by a trio of seasoned performers of the Giant Step scene. The accomplished flautist, Richard Worth, along with DJ Smash and rapper Nappy G, and a growing band of excellent Jazz musicians, formed in 1990 and soon formed a cult following.
Since those early days they have gone on to become regular performers at Jazz venues and festivals worldwide and in 1997 they were nominated for a Grammy for the album We the People.
I’ve chosen the Groove Collective track ‘Out the Door’ from the’ Dance of the Drunken Master’ (1997) for today’s second choice. I think it shows the depth and intricacy of the Jazz aspect of this fascinating genre.
When it hit the mainstream, what few defining lines that had determined what constituted Acid Jazz were blurred by an array of compilations and releases claiming the Acid Jazz title, but not necessarily the principles that (kind of) guided it. This, along with the rise of EDM in the mid-90s, led to a decline in interest in the movement.
Although there are still a few bands that adhere to the purism of Acid Jazz (not that it was ever created as music for purists), the natural evolution of music has now split into more sub-genres, and what was once termed Acid Jazz, is now often seen as Jazz-funk, Neo-Soul and Jazz-rap, amongst a growing list of bewildering terms.
To close this potted history, I have decided on a band who you may not have realised was a part of the Acid Jazz scene, Jamiroquai. Jamiroquai is not a person as many think, but a collection of fine musicians whose changing line-up have wowed audiences since 1992. Frontman, Jay Kay, drew from 70s Black music, Rock, Electronica and Latin rhythms to create his distinctive sound.
His early Acid Jazz label debut hit, When You Gonna Learn, put him in the spotlight and led to being signed to Sony, and the stream of million-selling albums that followed. Here’s that magic song that first caught the ears of music lovers of all genres, especially Acid Jazz fans, When You Gonna Learn,
Thanks for joining me for a peek at a style and genre of music that encompasses nearly everything, yet has a strangely defined sound. I hope that the start of the week has been stress-free and that you’ll spend some time with me tomorrow for some more musical fun. 😎
28th July: I am often amazed at some of the finds that appear of the Guilty Pleasure of the Cover Version Facebook page, and last night was no exception. I was just logging off for the evening last night when a notification came through that caught my eye and sent me on a nocturnal YouTube excursion into the world of Bardcore.
What is Bardcore? You may well ask! The phenomenon only took hold a few months ago when German YouTuber, Cornellius Link released the Vicetone/Tony Igy song, ‘Astronomia (Medieval Style)’, which went viral with 2.9 million views. He followed this up a few weeks later with a medieval take on the Foster the People’s hit, Pumped up Kicks.
What happened next was unexpected, but we’ll cover that in the second part of today’s Bardcore mix. In the meantime here the song that started this new/old trend, Astronomia. I’ve chosen the Tavern Version over the medieval original. Methinks it be a tad ballsier!
In discovering the Bardcore phenomenon of the last few months, I was amazed at the responses on the YouTube links. People seem to love this new approach to what seems the most unlikely selection of songs and getting in touch with their medieval speak.
After Cornelius Link started the ball rolling with Astronomia, he followed through with a great version of the Foster the People song, Pumped up Kicks. In response, the Canadian YouTuber, aptly named Hildegard Von Blingen, took Links’ soundtrack and added a medieval-styled vocal track. Within 6 weeks the clip had been viewed 4 million times. 🙃
Ms Von Blingen chose her name well, as Hildegard on Bingen (without the bling), or St Hildegard, was the 11th Century Benedictine Abbess, and renowned writer, composer and Christian mystic.
She went on to cover Radiohead’s Creep, Gaga’s Bad Romance and a wonderful version of the Dolly Parton staple, Jolene. I’ll be featuring this on a Jolene themed feature that I have planned for the near future. Here’s Hildegard Von Blingen with Radiohead’s Creep as you have never heard it before. 😎
The response to the new Bardcore artists has been unexpected, to say the least. This new, yet centuries-old, take on the popular song has, of course, been done before, but never to this extent, and never with this much exposure.
The trend attracted more talented YouTubers, and innovative medieval-styled covers are gaining popularity with the emergence of tracks from artists like Graywick, Constantine and Samus Ordicus.
Of course, when a new musical genre is in the wind, so are philosophies as to the reason behind the trend. The exotically named Elmira Tanatarova suggested in ID magazine that Bardcore “carries with it the weight of years of memes made about the medieval era, and the bleak darkness of that time period that appeals particularly to the GenZ’s sense of existential humour.” And there I was, thinking it was all about fun! 🙃
I’m closing today’s Bardcore feature with the track that piqued my interest last night. Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit sung in classical Latin (75 BC – 3 AD). It was posted by someone calling themselves The Miracle Aligner and is among the most original cover versions I have yet heard.
I am not sure if this musical trend will develop any further or maintain its following, but even if it fades into obscurity, let’s enjoy it while we can. Thanks for sharing this bit of fun with me today. I love it when something totally different comes my way. Hope you are having a trouble-free Tuesday. Catch you soon. 😎
29th July: Before last night I had never heard of Lao Tizer or his group of musicians (who can sometimes number fifteen). I’m glad that I changed that when I followed a chain of links that led to a Jazz outfit of the highest order. Each member of the band is recognized and awarded in their own right and led by Lao Tizer, the teenage prodigy whose career is now spaned through seven critically acclaimed albums.
I’m featuring three tracks from their last album that was released in 2018. ‘Songs from the Swinghouse’ contains eight original instrumental masterpieces and three iconic rock songs, I’ve chosen mind-blowing examples of each for your listening pleasure.
As the son of Hippie parents with of Russian–Jewish heritage, he drew influence from the ‘60s and ‘70s music and the ethnic background of his childhood home, as well as the emergence of the Pop culture of the last stage of the 20th century.
Acclaimed music and film director, Andy LaViolett, filmed the sessions live in a simultaneous, 8-camera HD video shoot which was used on the album release. I’m starting the original composition. ‘Metropolis’ which perfectly shows both the skill and musicianship of this band and the challenge of filming it all live. This is a Jazz indulgence. Enjoy.
Songs from the Swinghouse is the first time that Jazz genius, Lao Tizer, has worked with a vocalist, or, as a matter of fact, done any form of cover song.
From his initial album ‘Diversify’ in 2007, he has journeyed from his now well-known multi-faceted brand of Jazz through to minimalist piano beauty with the barest of accompaniment, and back again with this must-hear of an album.
"We've never done anything with a vocalist and we've never done any cover songs, so this is the first time that I decided to delve into that realm, to basically expand the scope of our music," Tizer states on his webpage.
Tita Hutchinson's rendition of U2s’ Pride (In the Name of Love) is powerful and slick, as is befitting to Lao Tizer’s superb arrangement, as you'll hear in today's second track.😎
Songs from the Swinghouse was recorded live over three days at the Conway Studios in Hollywood and contains a surprising choice of tracks.
Cat Stevens' "Sad Lisa" isn’t the first song that springs to mind when thinking of a Jazz cover, but Tizer's arrangements and Tita Hutchinson’s haunting vocals bring an entirely original feel to the song. Lao Tizer and his celebrated collaborators have added another milestone in the band’s musical journey with this album.
In his own words, "I spent my whole life writing instrumental music, and now I'm working on original material for the group, including vocals. I try and just stay true to my muse, and to use every bit of my facility to create great music that hopefully has its own voice, and continues to evolve as I continue to evolve as a person. It's very reflective of me, it's all I've done all my life."
Thanks for letting me share this ‘new’ discovery with you today. Although I love all music, I have a very special spot for good Jazz, and the Lao Tizer band hit it with a bullseye. Here’s the Cat Steven’s classic, Sad Lisa, Lao Tizer style. Catch you tomorrow! 😎
30th July: On the 1 – 10 scale of turning one’s life around, Bluesman, Fantastic Negrito, scores at least a fifteen. Why fifteen? That’s the number of children that his strict Muslim father sired, with Xaviar Dperepauless (yes, it is his actual name), being the eighth in line.
He left home early and took up a life of petty-crime that was prevalent among the poverty-stricken areas of Oakland where his life in the gangs started. "We were all selling drugs, man. We all carried pistols. There was a crack epidemic. I was the kind of kid who would sell fake weed.” He told The Guardian.
The realisation that he was “small-time” came when he and his friends bought some firearms from a gang, who returned to their house, held Dphrepaulezz at knifepoint and took the rest of their money. “The next day I got out. I hitchhiked to LA with $100 and a keyboard.”
Determined to make a new start he taught himself to play the guitar after hearing the Dirty Mind album by his hero, Prince. He furthered his musical knowledge by slipping into the music classrooms at Berkeley University, where he would copy the scales the students were practising.
His background in petty-crime and hustling was the perfect education for dealing with the music business, and he landed a deal with Prince’s former manager at Interscope Records. In 1996 he released his first album, The X Factor, under the name Xaviar. Neither artist nor record label was happy with the album, and his career hung in limbo for the next three years. I’ve kept today’s choice to songs from the second stage of his career. The first is a track from his 2016 Grammy Award-winning album, The Last Days of Oakland. Heres Lost in a Crowd.
The career doldrums that followed Fantastic Negrito’s first album ended abruptly, as nearly did his life when on Thanksgiving evening 1996, his car was hit by a drunk driver which broke both his arms and legs and left his strumming hand crushed.
His hand was little more than a claw and it seemed like the end of all musical aspirations when Interscope dropped him, ostensibly due to the accident. He went on to open an illegal night-club in LA. “I converted the warehouse where I lived in South Central into an illegal nightclub. I knocked down a few walls and built a bar that looked kind of like a pimps-from-outer-space thing. Velvet movie theatre seats. A hot tub on the roof. Nude body painting.”
Club Bingo played host to some celebrity heavy hitters, and Xaviar performed and worked under an array of alter egos. Some of these were licensed for film and TV use. After getting out of the club business to settle with his partner and young son, he sold all his equipment except a guitar, which he struggled to play, but persevered.
He was persuaded to enter a competition to record a session for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. He was chosen from 7000 entrants and this kick-started the second half of his musical career – the successful part!
Instead of just a song, I have chosen his life-changing Tiny Desk gem of a performance. As with all Tiny Desk productions, this is a selection of three live songs with a small audience in the NPR studios. As it is so intimate you really get to tell which artists rely on major sound engineering when they record. Not so Fantastic Negrito. His voice and his superb band can do it without any major help at all! This is a worthwhile ten minutes of viewing.
It isn’t just his huge fanbase that has cemented Fantastic Negrito into the greats of the wide-ranging genre that is the Blues. He won a second Grammy for his 2018 album, Please Don’t Be Dead as Best Contemporary Blues Album. To have two of your four albums win awards is quite an achievement for this former petty-thief.
His distinct voice and style of delivery are unique to him. He’s an original. It seems that after half a lifetime spent chasing a break, Fantastic Negrito’s luck turned when he stopped trying, and just let it happen in its own way.
I’m happy to announce that a notification crossed my path a few days ago for the fifth album from this outstanding Bluesman, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? will be available from the 14th August. Fortunately, he has given us a taste of what's to come with the song I’m So Happy I Cry featuring Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball (Tank & the Bangas). I think you’ll like it.
Thanks for rocking the Blues with me this Thursday and hope you enjoy Fantastic Negrito’s style of funky Blues as much as I do. Have a great evening one and all. Catch you tomorrow. 😎
31st July: The Tale of Jolene Pt - I think that when a song you have written gets covered by over 200 musicians during its lifetime, you can regard it a success. So it is with a country song that has been taken, twisted, and interpreted in a number of musical styles, as we will see today.
I am referring to is Dolly Partons huge hit, Jolene. This tale of pleading from one woman to ‘her man’s’ red-headed temptress seems to have worked its way into our musical roots, and in 2004 the song was ranked in Rolling Sones’ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ list.
Every now and then a version of Jolene pops up that is worth sharing, and I had two such instances of this over the last ten days. I don’t often do a mini-feature on just one song, but I think exploring these three versions helps exemplify the diversity of styles that Dolly’s hit has inspired.
I’m kicking off the threesome of Jolene’s with a bit of Bardcore, the new/old musical style phenomenon that I featured in some depth a few days ago. Here’s the pure voice of ‘Hildegard Von Blingen’ with her Old English version of Jolene.
The Tale of Jolene Pt 2: Today I am featuring three very different versions of the same song, Dolly Parton’s much-covered hit, Jolene. To start the proceedings we listened to the gentle Bardcore version. Now we head into deepest, darkest Africa for a version I have featured before, but it fits so well into today's theme that it deserves another airing. Apart from that, it is also a very clever adaptation that crosses instruments and languages and gives a fresh feel to an old classic.
The Congo Cowboys is a band formed by South African band, Freshlyground, members Simon Attwell (banjo), Julio Sigauque (bass) and Congolese lead singer Chris Bakalanga (guitar), together with South African drummer Unity Mzi. I never thought that foot-stomping Bluegrass combined with Kwassa Kwassa African guitar rhythms rock my boat. How wrong I was! Here’s the second choice for our Jolene feature for today – The Congo Cowboys.
The Tale of Jolene Pt 3: To finish the day’s selection of Jolene covers I have chosen a very different version by a band that has performed the song so many times that their fans think they wrote it. I’m talking The White Stripes. Here Jack White’s screaming delivery takes “Jolene” into the frenzied, angst-ridden, realm of the Rock ballad.
Dolly claims that the original song was inspired by the combination of a bank teller that seemed to be inappropriately flirting with her husband when they were newlyweds and a pretty little girl named Jolene who approached Dolly for an autograph during one of her shows.
Her song has also been mentioned by the New Zealand government in their advice on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In their list of "essential things to know" they advise that washing one's hands with soap should take "as long as it takes to sing the chorus of Dolly Parton's hit song Jolene."
I have a mental picture of Jack White and Dolly in Doc Martens screaming a duet of Jolene while washing their hands... but then again, maybe not. I hope you enjoyed this bit of Friday fun and that you have a good weekend planned. Whatever you are doing, please stay safe and sane and keep on listening to the music. 😎
I hope that you find these weekly recaps of Loving the Music mini-features make your musical world a little easier. Happy exploring! Join our Facebook Community here for a music group who does more than just post a link to a song.
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The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos used in the article