Loving the Music - the Sound of June: 22nd- 30th June 2020
You couldn't ask for a wider mix of songs and genres in one place than on the Loving the Music pages during the last part of the month. A host (hostess?) of strong ladies and different styles of Jazz, offset by Dylan's nasal tones and some surprising narrated hits.
This series of blog articles cover a week of mini-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.
22nd - 30th June 2020 - Featured Musicians:
Joan Armatrading - Emeli Sandé - Melissa Etheridge - Sia - Msaki - The Alan Cameron Trio - Bob Dylan - Hilton Schilder - Post Modern Jukebox - Pottery - HAIM - Donovan -
Baz Luhrmann - Les Crane
22 June: I’m starting this week with a few tracks from a lady who was termed the Joni Mitchell of England when she unleashed her talent on the world.
Joan Armatrading was the first Black British singer to enjoy international success. She taught herself a range of instruments during her childhood and teen years and composed numerous songs, to the point where when she first performed at a concert at Birmingham University, the 16-year-old Joan hardly knew any songs but her own. Probably one of the few times a debut performance consisted of only originals.
After a brief period as a duo with Pam Nestor whom she had met as a member in the Rep chorus of Hair, they released an album together but split soon after. The release of the album, Joan Armatrading, in 1976 saw a change around in her fortunes with songs like Love and Affection and Down to Zero finding their way into our lives.
I remember first hearing Joan Armatrading, and tonight’s first song choice, in 1978 when a regular customer of our coffee shop excitedly arrived one morning claiming we HAD to hear this NOW. After the first track, we plied her with free coffee for a couple of hours while we listened to the album over and over. Needless to say, it became a favourite amongst the regular crew of the time.
I’m starting tonight with a song from that wonderful album. Here’s Joan Armatrading with a live version of Down to Zero
For the second Joan Armatrading track today we are jumping forward a number of years. Her career has grown from strength-to-strength and she now has an impressive catalogue of albums and gold and platinum tracks.
Now comes something completely different, her 2007 album, Into the Blues, for which she won another first for British music when the album debuted at #1 on the US Billboard Charts and she became the first British female artist nominated for a Grammy in the Blues category. This is the album which Joan Armatrading claims “I have been promising myself to write for a long time”. This release saw the first of three albums where she focussed on one specific genre of music instead of her usual eclectic mix of styles.
Here she plays all instruments (except drums and percussion) and shows us what a fine Blues guitarist she is with the track Woman in Love.
While compiling today’s posts I discovered that during her remarkable career Joan Armatrading has released a total of 140 albums, singles, compilations and DVDs. Will we hear more from Joan in the future? She signed to BMG in 2018 and released a new album, Not Too Far Away, in 2019, so I think there is a fair chance that this 71-year-old powerhouse still has more to give.
This remarkable legacy of music comes from a woman who has managed to keep her private life to herself, shunning press interference and society scandals, and concentrating on what matters most, her music.
Many have speculated that her songs are accounts of her personal life. When questioned about this she said: "My songs aren't about me at all. They're always about love, the pain and anguish of it. But the way I've always written is from observation. They're about what I see other people going through. If the songs were about me I'd be so embarrassed I don't think I'd be able to walk out the front door. The optimistic songs reveal a bit more of me because that's how I feel. I'm definitely a 'glass is half full' kind of a person”
In a Rolling Stone interview, she revealed; "People who like my music have a legitimate interest in me, but I need to retain some privacy, not to be telling people what's going on, or what I feel. When you go home, the reason it's beautiful is that it's personal to you and the people you want to include in it."
2014 /15 saw Joan Armatrading embarking on her last world tour, saying goodbye to the live stage and her huge fan-base. For a final slice of Joan we cross to the 2012 Glastonbury Festival and the song Love and Affection. Considering the age of the song and the age of the crowd, you can see how cross-generational this lady’s music is.
Thanks for joining me tonight in a celebration of Joan Armatrading and her special magic. Here’s hoping that the week will be kind to you. Happy Monday 😎
25th June: Today seems like a good day for some powerhouse ladies with some powerhouse ballads. Although the mind immediately jumps to the likes of Jennifer Holiday, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Cher, tonight we’re not going that route. Instead, we’re doing Sande, Etheridge and Sia. Three top songwriters and performers who truly deserve their success.
I’m starting with a woman who doesn’t seem to set a foot wrong. Within eleven years of making her very first public appearance after leaving Medical school, she has had numerous top hits, won an enviable amount of awards, stunned the world when she performed at the 2012 Olympics and was awarded an MBE in 2018 for her services to music. I’m talking of Emeli Sandé.
For our first Power Ballad of the night, we join the beautiful Emeli Sandé with the enormous hit from her 2011 debut album, Heaven.
Our second Power Ballad for today comes from someone I have huge respect for. Melissa Etheridge has risen from being an underground success to become one of the most respected musicians on the circuit. Her songs, style and delivery are uniquely hers, and her work as an activist for the LGBTQ community is well known, as is her stand on the legalizing of cannabis
Her last album, The Medicine Show and the song, Faded By Design, deals with her own health and unapologetic attitude toward her own well being. This is understandable after Melissa underwent surgery and Chemo for her own breast cancer, but has decided to follow a path of natural healing.
This strong lady has deserved her 2 Grammy Award wins and Academy Award for Best Song (I Need to Wake Up from An Inconvenient Truth) as well as a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Here’s a song about strength and determination, Melissa Etheridge and Faded By Design.
The last of the Power ballads for today belongs to a lady who is kind of strange, but hey, this is the music business so I suppose she’s allowed her quirks. After all, she did go through a lot of personal problems before reaching the level of fame she has deservedly won. I’m talking about Sia, the voice that has taken to performing under a huge blonde wig that obscures her face or performs facing away from the audience or camera.
This is a lady who is more comfortable in the background, writing huge hits or performing back-up vocals for the likes of Rhiana, Beyonce, Brittney Spears, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Kylie... the list is huge. I honestly think that her voice is far more distinctive than those of most of the big names she has provided hits for. It is the mega-hits that she released like Titanium and Chandelier that has placed Sia as one of the true talents among a sea of mediocre singers with big gimmicks and even bigger egos. Her video for Chandelleir featuring the child dancer Maddy Ziegler has been viewed millions of times.
And the wig? It wasn’t a part of the Sia image initially, but after her first brush with fame which she didn’t feel comfortable with, she decided it gave her privacy. It is also clever marketing. In our Instagram age where everyone’s face is there on demand for you to see, Sia has a large wig. Good on you girl!
It was a hard decision between my two favourite Sia tracks, but Chandelier won over Titanium this time (although I watched both a couple of times while making up my mind). Here’s the remarkable voice of Sia set against the incredible dancing of Maddy Ziegler, and an amazing song. Thanks for joining my trio of ladies. I’ve enjoyed putting it together.
26th June: While searching through some tracks for upcoming features I came across this bit of magical collaboration from some of the most beautiful voices in modern SA music. Some of you may not recognise the names of the artists, or much of the language. It doesn’t matter, just listen. When I hear the harmonies and the gently flowing rhythms I realize just how deeply South African I am.
These ladies were brought together through the UK based Platoon organization who facilitate collaborations of musicians and help market their works to the world. They are a mixed bag, with four South Africans and one US member of this group. Some are established and well known and others beginning to make their mark in the industry. I’ve included a nice link on the backstory of how the song came into being in the comments section.
Here we have Msaki (our featured artist for tomorrow), Zolani Mahola (of Freshly Ground), Ami Faku (Voice SA contestant), Bonga Kwana (aka Stargyal - singer/songwriter and much more), and finally USA’s popular R&B artist Eryn Allen Kane.
Just as an extra track for the day and as a teaser for our Msaki feature tomorrow, here’s the beautiful song that the ladies wrote in one sitting, all bringing a special magic to a special subject – Ungazilibali (roughly translated, don’t forget yourself).
The lyrics are in the comments section of the clip and make lovely reading. Have a lovely Thursday evening folks.😎
27th June: I’ve featured our very own South African songstress, Msaki, before. This lady was destined to be in the music industry. Her grandfather was a well-known composer and her father was both a DJ and ran numerous choirs throughout his life.
This East London born talent studied Visual Arts at Grahamstown South Africa and Leeds University in the UK where she taught herself the guitar. Her life changed in 2012 when she was one of 30 students selected from 900 applicants to study in North Carolina, USA, which prepared her for a career as a performance artist.
Msaki’s sound is unique; Soulful folk, African rhythms, Xhosa and English flowing seamlessly together and leaving you wanting more. Tonight I’m featuring three tracks from her magnificent 2016 album, Zaneliza: How the Water Moves. Let’s start with a track I that I have shared before, but it is just so good that it deserves another airing. Here’s Iimfama Ziyabona (The Blind See)
What strikes me is how driven Msaki is as a performer and as a businesswoman. This is a lady who knows what she wants. From independently recording and releasing her first EP, Nal’ithemba, in 2013 she built her cred and paid her dues on the local music circuit building her reputation as a serious artist. She then released her beautiful 2016 album, Zaneliza: How the Water Moves, on her own record label; One Shushu Day Artistry. This was promoted with countrywide appearances.
I don’t think that there is a major local festival that she hasn’t played. Internationally she performed at the Gothenburg Cultural Festival in Sweden. Her success is highly deserved.
As the second Msaki song for tonight here’s a gentle track from the Zaneliza album, Dreams.
The closing track from Msaki is a tip-of-the-hat to her love of Jazz, Smiling at the Moon Tripping Over Bass Drums. It’s a fun track with scat-style singing, Jazzy-Funk vibes and that little play of Xhosa and English that I love. I’ve included this as the final track because I think it shows how versatile and adaptable Msaki can be as an artist.
In an interview, Msaki said that she believes in the power that the arts hold to allow people to re-imagine themselves and the validity of every unique story. I think she is living her belief. I look forward to seeing Msaki receive the recognition she deserves.
Here’s the song that can’t help but put a smile on my face, Smiling at the Moon Tripping Over Bass Drums (feat. Umle).
Thanks for joining me for a date with Msaki tonight. I hope I have please the existing fans and maybe gained this local powerhouse a few new fans as well. Catch you soon. 😎
27 June: Some of you may not be aware that Bob Dylan released his 39th album earlier this month. Where many musicians of 79 years old may just rely on a selection from their catalogue from 5+ decades of hits when bringing out a new album, Bob did what Bob does best, gave us an album of all-new material.
With this achievement comes the acclaim of being the oldest artist to have an album of new material enter the UK Charts at #1, a slot previously held by Paul Simon with his Stranger to Stranger release in 2016 when he was a mere 74. Dear old Vera Lynn topped the charts at 92 years old, but with a compilation of her great hits.
I took a listen to the album, Rough and Rowdy Ways earlier today and I can honestly say that although his voice is older, his poetry is still as sharp as ever. The album has a bluesy feel, is pretty laid back and infinitely listenable. While listening I realised how badly I’d like to hear Bob and Tom Waits do some stuff together in the autumn of their years. Their voices and poetry combined could make for some interesting listening. I’m starting tonight’s selection with the number False Prophet. Enjoy.
We are taking a peek at Bob Dylan’s latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, today. Looking at the UK album charts for 26th June (yesterday) we see Bob taking top slot with that youngster, Neil Young (74) at second place with his Homegrown album. We live in a very different musical era than when I was a teenager. The idea of a couple of septuagenarians topping the charts was just absurd back then!
This is the first batch of new material from Dylan in eight years. Of course, the musical press is waxing lyrical with phrases like ‘his most timely album ever’ (Rolling Stone), and ‘a testament to his eternal greatness’ (Guardian), but I like the BBC’s Will Gompertz comment “It is a perfect example of how an artist in their 70s can continue being relevant. It’s not trying to impress or please, but if it were a painting, I’d call it a masterpiece” On that comment we cut to the second track from Dylan’s new album, My Own Version of You.
The final track from Bob Dylan’s June 2020 release, Rough and Rowdy Ways we take that uncrossable step ‘Across the Rubicon’. I thought it apt as there seem to be a lot of Rubicon moments happening globally right now.
In conclusion, this is an essential album for lovers of Blues, lovers of Dylan and a love for the type of poetry that seems to have come so easily to Mr Zimmerman for all of 5 decades. Is it his best album? No, I don’t think so, but it is an album that will grow on you. I’ve already included four of the tracks in my home listening Blues playlist, and there will probably be more than find their way there.
I hope you enjoyed spending time with Bob and I today. I’ll be back soon with some more marvellous music for y’all. Keep sane folks. 😎
28th June: Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox videos always make me smile. He has the ability to match just the right singer to the song he’s chosen to revamp – vamp being the operative word. What better way to spend an hour on a chilly Sunday morning than to bump and grind around the house doing chores to the sounds of PMJ.
I tracked a couple of new releases from them (plus an old favourite) for today’s music selection. Why? Because its feel-good, cleverly arranged and exactly suits my listening mood for the day.
Let’s start with a Guns and Roses classic, Sweet Child of Mine, in the style of Bessie Smith and sung by the wonderful Miche Braden. The video was shot in Scott’s living room in the style of the 90s VH1 clips, complete with pop-ups. PMJ has covered this song before with different singers, but there is something about Miche’s delivery in this latest incarnation that appeals to me. Here’s Sweet Child of Mine
I’ve always loved this song and was very happy to find this version from Post Modern Jukebox. This is the ideal second track for today’s PMJ threesome of tunes.
This is a simple arrangement with Scott Bradlee on piano accompanying Sunny Holiday (isn’t that a great name?). Sunny had regularly performed back-up on some of PMJ’s videos, but here she is given the spotlight with her beautiful rendition of The Flamingos 1959 hit, I Only Have Eye’s for You.
We’re closing today's Post Modern Jukebox selection with PMJ’s take on the huge Aerosmith song Dream On. This time our vocalist is the fabulous Morgan James, and she truly has the voice to carry this song to its huge finale.
Morgan James has worked on numerous PMJ projects, but is better known as a Broadway actress (Mowtown, Godspell, The Addams Family) and is also a musician in her own right having released and toured a number of her own albums, including one of Joni Mitchell songs (which I intend tracking down).
Thanks for spending a little of your Sunday time with PMJ and me today. We enjoyed your company. I hope you are all having a lovely weekend and that the week to come treats you with kindness. Catch you soon. Stay sane. 😎
29 June: Happy New Week music lovers! What better way to start than with a batch of new music. Finding exciting new bands makes compiling this page such a pleasure. Today’s three albums were all released in the last week and two of them are debuts that you’ll want to hear. All of them are from bands that I’m sure you’ll be looking out for after hearing them.
I came across today’s opening band when I was trying to track a particular pottery video on YouTube. Happily, this is what popped up. I had no idea that there was a band called Pottery and what grabbed me immediately is the late-Punk / Talking Heads sound that I soon realised wasn’t just a knock-off wannabe clone. This Melbourne based outfit play with the genre with skill and precision while overlaying their own soundscape on a cleverly crafted debut album that’s got the critics tail wag of approval.
What I like so much about this band is that (for a listener of my age) their sound is familiar enough to make each track feel accessible, but also bring new excitement to what can sometimes be an overworked genre. I can imagine myself dancing to this back at some of the decadent ‘80s parties.
I could have chosen virtually any of the eleven tracks of Pottery’s ‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel’ album to prove my point, but have chosen the track ‘What’s In Fashion’ to do so. Enjoy.
The second new album release of June is from HAIM, the trio of multi-instrumentalist sisters from Los Angeles who have been making gentle waves in the music world since 2007 when they released their first EP on a time-limited download. This humble beginning put them on the Festival circuit and interest from Polydor in 2012.
Their first album charted in the Top 10 in several countries which led to numerous awards, including Grammy for Best New Artist. They have won a fan base that crosses gender and age, and deservedly so. These ladies know what they are doing. This is their third album, ‘Women in Music Pt 2’, and it lives up to the slickness of the previous two albums. I think that this track, ‘Up from a Dream’, has a decidedly feel-good ‘60s feel about it. What do you think? 😎
I had never heard of Bananagun before they featured on Radio Caroline a few months back. I was instantly impressed and shared a couple of pre-release tracks from their upcoming album, The Truth Behind Bananagun. The good news is that the full album was finally released on June 25th and to celebrate I’ve decided to revisit their amazing Fela Kuti inspired song, People Talk Too Much.
Listening to the whole album I was struck by how clever their sound is. It’s Funk / Afrobeat but with a gentleness about it that gives some of the tracks a decidedly ‘60s / ‘70s feel. This Melbourne based outfit, headed by Nick Van Bakel, has released a debut album that is making the critics sit up and wag their collective tails. I particularly like this comment from NME’s review; “Not only does the band successfully blend genres with ease; they thrillingly leap through whole musical movements from one note to the next. In a world where vintage and psych-infused sounds are just about everywhere you look (especially on Australian shores), Bananagun has boldly hammered their stamp on the genre at the first attempt”. High praise and well deserved.
I hoping there will be more shots coming from the Bananagun in the near future. As promised, here’s People Talk too Much. I hope that Monday is treating you well and you are lined-up for a wonderful week. Thanks for joining me with some new releases today. Catch you soon. Keep sane. 😎
30th June: Every now and then a song makes its way into our lives which is completely out of the norm. These include those unexpected ‘spoken word’ hits that have wormed their way into our brains over the years. I’m featuring three of these today.
In 1969 the record companies didn’t think a 5+ minute spoken tale of a fabled land would have much pop appeal, but Donovan’s long winding tale of the legend of Atlantis went on to be a worldwide Top 10 hit in all but his home country of Scotland, where it only managed to reach a modest #23 in the charts. Contractual complications in the USA saw the song released as the B side to Susan on the West Coast Waiting, but the song/fable had far too much appeal to remain a ‘second choice’ and peaked at #7 on the US charts.
Atlantis reappeared (always wanted to write those words!) in 2001 when Donovan and the German band, No Angels, recorded a version for the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which went to #5 in Austria and Germany.
Not only did Donovan and the song prove the record company wrong, but the song also became one of the well-loved anthems of the Hippy Era. Here’s Atlantis.
I remember when the unlikely hit, Go Placidly, or Desiderata, hit the airwaves at the dawn of the ‘70s. Based on the poem Desiderata, It was taken as age-old wisdom with origins lost in the romantic mists of time by a generation who decorated their walls with block-mounted posters of the poem. Every home had one, Believe me, I was there! This is our second choice of ‘spoken word’ hits for today.
This traditional wisdom (which was occasionally, but incorrectly, attributed to Kahlil Gibran), was actually written in 1927 by an Indiana lawyer, poet and writer, Max Ehrmann. It was recorded twice, firstly as Go Placidly by Brian Davidson’s band, Every Which Way in 1970, but it was Les Crane’s version in 1971 with music by Fred Werner that appeared on his album, Desiderata, that caught the imagination.
Lindsay Planer, in her review of the album for AllMusic, sums up the Desiderata album perfectly, "Crane's dulcet-toned reading became an anthem for those wishing to perpetuate the message of peace and love that had seemingly been abandoned in the wake of the '60s," and calls the album itself "an inspired timepiece with an ageless message, rather than the one-hit-wonder novelty that history will undoubtedly remember it as”. She was pretty accurate in her prediction.
Whichever version you may remember, here’s Desiderata, which, by the way, means ‘Things Desired’ in Latin. Now you know.
Closing this Tuesday’s mix of unexpected spoken word hits, here’s one that came from the left-field and sparked quite a bit of controversy as to the origin of the piece.
Some attributed it to a speech that Kurt Vonnegut had supposedly written as the Commencement address for MIT’s class of 97, however, it was actually written by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, as an article giving advice on how to lead a happier life. Kurt Vonnegut put matters to rest once and for all when he stated in an article some years later that he did not write the speech, had never addressed MIT’s Commencement class, but would have been proud to have written the words.
The article came to the attention of Australian film director Baz Luhrmann who got Australian actor Lee Perry to narrate what was to become the unexpected hit of the year. A few tweaks and edits later the song was eventually released in 1998 on the album Something for Everybody.
Ending this Tuesday’s selection is the good advice of Mary Schmich – Wear Sunscreen.
Thanks for joining me today for a quick trip in myth, mystery and the spoken word. Wishing all you music lovers a happy day. Catch you soon. 😎
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