Dirty Town & Uncle Ho

Ewan MacColl was born James Henry Miller in Salford, England in 1915 of Scottish parents, his father was an iron moulder , socialist and labour union activist. The family was living within a Scottish community in Salford – Manchester, after being blacklisted in Scotland.

Maximilien Luce:  Charleroi Foundry, Casting (1896)

oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm

 

Ewan MacColl left school age 14, founding a political theatre troupe he became a dramatist and actor. In the early 30’s he met and married actor Joan Littlewood. The family was under MI5 surveillance from 1932 also preventing some of MacColl’s song from BBC airplay.

My old man he was fifty-one – What was he to do?

A craftsman moulder on the dole – In nineteen thirty-two

He felt he’d given all he could give  

So he did what thousands of others did

Abandoned hope and the will to live – They killed him, my old man

Besides MacColl’s playwriting and acting, he became increasingly interested in working class music, and inspired by American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax he began to collect and perform traditional folk songs. Leading MacColl to open the Ballads and Blues club in Soho in 1953, giving birth to 50’s Brittish folk revival.

MacColl met only 21-year-old Peggy Seeger, half-sister of American folksinger Pete Seeger, she had relocated to Europe warned that McCarthy era US State Department would withdraw her US passport, after she had visited China against official advice.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger together on Dirty Old Town:

I found my love where the gaslight falls

Dreamed a dream by the old canal

Kissed my girl by the factory wall

Dirty old town, dirty old town

MacColl is clearly a debatable figure, hardcore communist and even Stalinist, but honestly how many of us today can relate to how life must have been growing up in working class slums in the early 20’s, not to mention pre-revolution Russia. My grandfather was a foundry worker too and just as loyal to Soviet Union as  MacColl.

Every soldier is a farmer

Comes the evening and he grabs his hoe

Comes the morning he swings his rifle on his shoulder

This is the army of Uncle Ho.

Anyway no matter what you may think about his somewhat outdated political views, Ewan MacColl influence on folk music is unquestionable and his best songs have been covered by many different artists, from Roberta Flack, Johnny Cash and Rod Steward to Irish-British punk band The Pogues.

Miley Cyrus version of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

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Elk’s Head & Lion-Man

To me there is something very fascinating about pre-historic art, we can try to imagine those people living a very different life so very long ago, and what they were thinking when they were creating those often very beautiful works of art, but we will never know.

Recomended listning while reading this post :

The Elk’s Head of Huittinen
Sometimes called the Moose’s Head, was found south west Finland, the figurine is about 10 centimetre long, made of soapstone. Dated to 7000 to 6000 BC. The artwork belongs to what is called “Kunda Culture” of Stone Age hunter gatherers inhabiting the east part of the Baltic region, when the ice cap melted.

The head has a hole for mounting on a stick, so might be a sceptre-head used in a ritual context or carried by a shaman or tribe leader.

We can expect that there was some ritual or religious intentions, trying to control the harsh and dangerous environment surrounding them, but exactly who they were, why they did it and what was the expected effect, is impossible to know for sure.

The Löwenmensch figurine carved in mammoth-ivory is 31.1 cm tall, found in a cave in Baden-Württemberg southern Germany. Dated to being about 35,000 to 40,000 years old the sculpture is the oldest known example of figurative art.
Studies have shown, that creating a sculpture like this with stone age tools, would have taken something like 370 hours, this is at a point in history where life was short and dangerous. Must have been indescribable valuable to the owner.

The Lion-Man is infact more likely to be female, with head of a female cave lion.

Up until this post I have had a top-page about ”other art’s”, which i would sometimes change. From now on, I will mix those in with “music” posts as regular blog post, removing the page from the top. Could be posts about almost anything as long as I would personally consider it to be art.

About the music:

Sacred Spirit is a German electronic world music project led by Claus Zundel aka “The Fearsome Brave”, releasing a series of albums from 1995 to 2003. Mostly centered around Native American chants on top of chill ambient electronica and tribal inspired rhythms.

 

 

Undertow

In the previous post about Maynard, I did end with the first TOOL ep, but that was not the first recorded material with Maynard.

He recorded in Michigan with “TexA.N.S.” aka Tex & the Anti Nazi Squad (1984-85) as bassist and later with “Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty” (1986-87) as vocalist and at first also bass and drum machine. These recordings was self-released on cassette. Also a VHS was made with “Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty”, can be found on YouTube but the quality rather hopeless.

So back to TOOL

1993 saw the release of their first full length album Undertow, looking in the rearview mirror the album may not be TOOL’s best, but it paved the way for TOOL’s success not to mention a whole new brand of Heavy Metal, with intelligent lyrics and music, some would call Progressive Metal.

Peaking at Number 50 on the Billboard 200 and selling 2 million plus copies in the U.S. alone.

Not only the music was different, the image and lyrics was also distinctly different from the Metal Scene at the time. Maynard explains to “Rolling Stone” :

“We were trying to get past all the hair bands and these poofy-haired idiots that were doing their thing…There was a great underground movement of music in L.A….. we were really bonding together with them to fight against and create a new scene we felt was more worthwhile.”

The album touch a lot of ground, mostly dark desperate angry emotions musically as well as lyrically. Less calm and meditative than their later albums, and maybe more fitting for the less “progressive orientated” metal listener, but still with a fine artistic integrity.

An this album the band is:

Maynard James Keenan – vocals

Adam Jones – guitar, sitar

Paul D’Amour – bass guitar

Danny Carey – drums

 

Desert, Revolution and Cold Wine.

Ghost on Ghost is an album released in spring 2013, by American singer-songwriter known by stage name “Iron & Wine”, “Iron & Wine” born Samuel Ervin Beam is known to create music and songs in what is usually called “Indie Folk” or “Folk Rock” in line with artist like Bon Iver or The Decemberists.

But what I particular like about this album, is that it expands a lot on the genre especially with strong Jazz elements. Adding jazz drummers Brian Blade and Kenny Wollesen, also Saxophone’s, Trumpet, Cornet, Alto Horn, Trombone and Upright Bass appears on the album, with a long list of guest musicians with Jazz as well as Classical music backgrounds.

Samuel Ervin Beam put it something like this, in an interview with SPIN back in 2013

Elements of ’60s and ’70s R&B and of Charles Mingus’s music. It was fun to combine the two in Lover’s Revolution, Desert Babbler sounds a lot like Marvin Gaye……, country elements and gospel elements, so the influences get mashed together.

This fine and crafted mix of music, centered around Iron & Wine’s straight forward but nice and relaxed songwriting, makes for a laid back music perfectly fitting a cold glass of White Wine or Rose  on a hot summer day, and that is what we got in my region right now.

The Stone Temple

The original COLOUR HAZE was founded in summer 1994 in Munich (Germany) by Stefan Koglek (Guitar, Vocal) – Christian Wiesner (Bass) and Tim Höfer (Drums)

By springtime the following year the first album was released, ”Chopping Machine”. The album was a bit messy in sound and somehow also direction, far from the refined sound of later albums, but a fine start with interesting perspectives.

After this first album the band went through some years of turbulence with no album releases and a brand new lineup with only one member left. The new lineup was existing member Stefan Koglek (Guitar, Vocal), Philipp Rasthofer (bass) and Mani Merwald (drums).

The new lineup released first album Periscope in 1999

This was the lineup that was to become Colour Haze right up to the present day with now 10 albums under their belt. From Periscope onwards they also found their core sound, a heavy stoner rock that would make them amongst the most celebrated bands on the continental European Stoner/Psych Rock scene.

Their 2006 album Tempel a favorite of mine. A must have album if you like this kind of music.

On their late 2000’s albums “Tempel” “All” and “She Said” they started to introduce guests on the album, tweaking the sound a little bit but without changing the core impression. Most notable on the album “She Said” with a long list of guests:

Carolin Roth, Lipa Majstrovic, Mario Knapp (Backing vocals) – Robert Schoosleitner (Chimes, shaker) – Ben Esen (Congas)  Christian Hawellek (Electric piano, Grand piano) Ellernquartett (Strings) Roman Bichler (Mellotron, Coir) Georg Weisbrodt (Trombone)

Title track from “She Said”, some may think it is too long – I’d say “absolutely not” it’s perfect.  (start very very slowly nothing wrong with your speakers/headset)

 

Their last album to this day was “In Her Garden” from 2017, might get back to that another time.

Sukiyaki

The original version of ”Ue wo Muite Arukō” was included in the film and on the soundtrack album ”From Up On Poppy Hill” or “Kokuriko-zaka Kara” (2011) an Anime film by Gorō Miyazaki son of world famous Anime film maker Hayao Miyazaki.

 From Up On Poppy Hill” set in 1963 Yokohama

 

Rokusuke Ei wrote the original lyrics for ”Ue wo Muite Arukō” known as ”Sukiyaki”, there is two different versions to explain the lyrics, A: the political and B: the romantic.
A: Rokusuke was walking home from a protest over U.S. military presence in Japan, tears expressing his frustration with the situation.
B: Rokusuke had his heart broken by a Japanese actress by the name of Meiko Nakamura.

The original with translation:

The song was released 1961 in Japan by Kyu Sakamoto, Louis Benjamin of “Pye Records” heard the song in Japan and back in UK, an instrumental version was recorded by Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen making it to 10th at UK charts.

With the success of this recording, HMV released the original version on the British marked in 1963 more or less simultaneously DJ Richard Osborne’s from Pasco, Washington. Knew about the Kenny Ball version and got hold of the original Japanese which he put at frequent rotation in his radio show.

Capitol Records got the rights and released it on the US marked also as ”Sukiyaki” in 1963, notably ”Sukiyaki” is the name of a Japanese dish and the word is not mentioned in the song.

Danish Otto Brandenburg perform “Sukiyaki” with Swedish Lyrics (1963)

The song made it to no.1 on Billboard Hot 100, and with total sales figures at 13 million, it is by far the best selling single ever with lyrics not in English, to put it in perspective it has outsold any single by The Beatles.

American rhythm and blues group “A Taste of Honey”, known from their “Boogie Oogie Oogie” hitting in 1978, also had a hit with ”Sukiyaki” in 1981. Janice–Marie Johnson of “A Taste of Honey” made the English version of the lyrics, later used by many others artists.

The song has been used in many film and TV series, notably M*A*S*H uses it even though it was recorded long after the Korean War was over. It has also been recorded by lots of different artists in many languages.

Just under a month ago (13. April 2018) another version was released, as  producer, remixer, composer, and performer G.H. Hat released a ten-track remix album featuring dance remakes of “Sukiyaki”,on this video with vocals by Alina Renae and based on Janice–Marie Johnson’s lyrics.

 

From World’s End to Believe

Go to the first post in this series

Pendragon cover from “Belive” 2005 (by Simon Williams)

After 5 year break where Nick Barrett went through a divorce Pendragon was back with a new release in 2001 “Not Of This World” another fine album although a bit too much of the same. Could have expected a bit more development after 5 years but did not see that much on this one, that said it is not a bad album actually on of the better amongst the early ones.

 

More interesting in terms of creative development, the band released a recording from Polish radio in 2002 “Acoustically Challenged” mainly based on Vocal and Acoustic Guitars, some keyboard but no drums.

Whether you like these kind of acoustic sets or not, It is both daring and interesting when a band normally relying a lot on a highly produced prog sound, strips it down like this.

The above mentioned sound somewhat made it into the next album “Believe”, coming out less symphonic or pompous than their earlier albums, the sound was turning a little more in a Pink Floyd direction with more room for the guitars and less for the keyboards.

The Blake Album

“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is an illustrated book by the influential English poet William Blake created 1790 to 1793

“Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is an 1998 album by Ulver, sometimes reffered to as just “The Blake Album” where the illustration’s by Blake is replaced by music, the text/lyrics is exactly the same.

For those interested in the entire text and William Blake’s impressive etched plates, click here

In 1998 Norwegian music collective ULVER led by vocalist Kristoffer Rygg, was known mainly as a black metal band with some acoustic elements from classical and/or folk music, after the release of their three first albums. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell saw a huge change in their artistic direction.

There is a black metal vibe left from the previous album, but this is a magic mixture of elements from other styles like Industrial, Electronic and Ambient etc that you won’t really find anywhere else, that combined with those mysterius and spiritual lyrics provide for a  very avantgarde rock to say the least, a complex music that demands a lot and rewards equally too those patient souls able to dig deep enough.

While this album at first glance seems very dark and almost scary, there is something very beautiful in the interaction or contrast of those acoustic moments and vocals clashed with passages of brutal distorted sections of hard industrial rock and dark vocals – perfectly illustrating “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.

To me personally it is that kind of album, that I don’t visit too often, but when i do I always spent the entire hour needed to hear it all at ones.

Im not an expert in Literature and this is just by own interpretation: In reflection of the above mentioned harmony of contradictions, it is my believe that William Blake’s idea was exactly to highlight that Heaven and Hell or rather The Natural Element and The Civilized Element, was not contradicting and “The Marriage” of those are  needed.

 

John Paul’s roots music

To a list of all earlier post about Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. (reverse chronological order)

 In 2006 John Paul was producing and performing on Uncle Earl’s album “Waterloo, Tennessee”

A band playing old time traditional folk and bluegrass sending thoughts back to the early days of wild west, formed in 2000 by KC Groves and Jo Serrapere

At the point where John Paul was producing “Waterloo, Tennessee” the band was composed of these four women:

Founding member KC Groves: Vocals, Mandolin, Guitar, Mandola  Kristin Andreassen: Vocals, Guitar, Fiddle, Ukulele Banjo              Rayna Gellert: Vocals, Fiddle                                                                                        Abigail Washburn: Vocals, Banjo

On the album John Paul Jones was credited with Piano, Bass, Mandola, Wobble Board and Vocals. The album was released in 2007.

On this hilarious video John Paul plays the piano.

His next project as an album producer and performer would be Sara Watkins self-titled debut recorded in 2007-2008 and released in 2009.

Singer-songwriter and fiddler Sara Watkins is also firmly rooted in bluegrass and folk music, as longtime member of Grammy winning “Nickel Creek”, on the album John Paul is credited with vocals , bass, organ, electric piano, mandolin and piano

“Where Will You Be”

John Paul: bass, Sara Watkins: vocals, Sean Watkins: acoustic guitar, Jon Brion: electric guitar

Toshiko – Bebop with a Japanese twist

Toshiko Akiyoshi was born in 1929 in what is today know as Dalian, (formerly known as Darien or Port Arthur) Manchuria, at the time ruled by the Japanese after the victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.
Born from upper class parents, her father was a textile and steel mill owner, she and her sisters was brought up studying traditional Japanese dance, classic piano and ballet. Toshiko was addicted to the piano and soon focused of that.

As you can easily imagine the family luck changes dramatically in 1946 after the war. They were relocated to Beppu on the island of Kyushu in southern japan, with little money and only the belongings they could carry. Resulting in the fact that Toshiko Akiyoshi now 7 years old no longer had a piano.

From “The Subject is Jazz” 1958

Japan was full of American soldiers after the war, and entertainment establishments opened offering dance music. Toshiko Akiyoshi got a job playing in a dance band getting access to a piano and could practise classic piano outside working hours. One day a Japanese record collector heard her play and introduced her to Jazz playing a recording of Afro-American jazz pianist Teddy Wilson.

From “Her Trio, Her Quartet” – “Thou Swell” 1956

This was a revolution to the young Toshiko Akiyoshi, she started listening to and practice Jazz, in 1950 she moved to Tokyo to start up her own band. In 1952 pianist Oscar Peterson saw Akiyoshi playing in a club and soon Toshiko was recording her first album “Toshiko’s Piano” with members of Oscar Peterson’s band in Radio Tokyo Studio. The first two albums was dominate by covers of American Jazz, but on the third “The Toshiko Trio” (1956) it was mainly her own compositions. Recorded in New York City after she moved to US to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston

From “The Toshiko Trio” – “Kyoshu” 1956

In the 1960’s she was living in both Tokyo and New York, when not turing.

In 1964 her daughter Michiru Mariano was born, but she was divorced in 1967 from the father, two years later she married saxophonist Lew Tabackin.

Inspired by an interview with Duke Ellington expressing how proud he was of his race, Toshiko Akiyoshi gained interest in how to incorporate Japanese culture and music in her writing.

This was first attempted on Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band’s album “Kogun” (1974), and came to its full on their album “Insights” (1976), on the brilliant sidelong Jazz suite “Minamata”.

Nowhere near Japanese traditional music, but complex Jazz with a slight Japanese twist.

From “Insights” – “Minamata” 1976

To be continued

For additional reading on the subject I can recommend this great article by Susan Fleet,  generally a rich source of information on pioneering women in music.

 

 

Digging Deeper into Music

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