Wednesday, 20 August 2008

RIP Ronnie Drew - 1934-2008

The music world lost one of its great characters and hugely influential performers with the death this week of the great Ronnie Drew, famed as front man of The Dubliners and inspiration to a raft of bands, most notably The Pogues.

Drew formed The Dubliners in 1962, originally as The Ronnie Drew Group. The band would go on to become one of the most popular and successful folk groups in history, notching up a number of UK hit singles - "Seven Drunken Nights" and "The Black Velvet Band" both reached the top twenty (in the days when the charts actually meant something), while "Maids When You're Young Never Wed An Old Man" scraped into the top 50. In 1987, the single "The Irish Rover", recorded with the Pogues, reached number 8 in the UK - and number 1 in Ireland, introducing a new generation of music fans to the delights of the Dubliner's recordings.

Drew left The Dubliners in 1974 but returned to the fold five years later. He would remain a Dubliner until 1995 when he again left the band, this time to launch a solo career.

Sadly, Ronnie Drew was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006. Despite a two-year fight, he could not beat the illness and died aged 73 in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, on 16th August 2008. He leaves two children and five grandchildren.

A true legend of Irish music, Ronnie Drew will be sadly missed by friends, family and fans alike.

Celebrate some of Ronnie's finest moments with the selection of tracks below.

Download: The Dubliners - Seven Deadly Sins
Download: The Dubliners - A Pub With No Beer
Download: The Dubliners - Finnegan's Wake
Download: Ronnie Drew - The Dunes

Amazon links - buy Ronnie Drew or The Dubliners stuff!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Music, No Lyrics (#1)

Welcome to another regular series on Musicus Eclecticus, “Music, No Lyrics”, in which we look at some great instrumental tracks. Now, despite this blog generally having no rules whatsoever, in this case I’ve applied some specific criteria. I’ve eliminated classical music and dance music, purely because it’s usually devoid of words anyway, so there’s nothing unusual there. Besides which, you don’t really want me to start posting Scooter tracks, do you? (If you do, you’re in the wrong place).

Much more interesting are those tracks that either shaped the development of the instrumental (as in the first example, below), or instrumentals recorded by bands who aren’t normally associated with such things (as in our other two examples).

First up, is the godfather of guitar instrumentals, Link Wray. Link Wray (pictured) is credited with inventing distortion, by punching holes in the fronts of his amplifiers. He is also thought to have invented the power chord, which isn’t a bad claim to fame when you think about it… A formative influence on the likes of The Who and Led Zeppelin, nobody does it better than Link Wray did it.

Originally recorded in 1958, “Rumble” is an all-time rock ‘n’ roll classic. Bizarrely, it led to Wray being dropped by his label at the time (Cadence), who stated that the record was “promoting teenage gang warfare”, after label boss Archie Bleyer’s daughter remarked that it reminded her of the fight scenes in West Side Story. You couldn’t make it up.
In case you missed it, "Rumble" also cropped up on the soundtrack to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, cementing its place in popular culture all over again.

Link Wray died in 2005 in his adopted home of Denmark, leaving behind an enormous and hugely important body of work.

Download: Link Wray – Rumble

Jumping forward a mere 38 years, this next record, from Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub comes from their wondrous Bandwagonesque album. An odd album title, as the Fanclub could never be accused of jumping on anyone else’s bandwagon. This dreamy album (think The Beach Boys on crack) contains a gem of an instrumental, “Satan”, which at less than a minute and a half, is short and sweet for sure, but nevertheless stands as one of the album’s undoubted highlights.

Download: Teenage Fanclub – Satan

Now, whilst it may be distinctly uncool to profess a liking for Metallica, frankly I don’t care. I grew up on a diet of Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets and I’ve never quite shaken the habit. Christ, I even bought St Anger.

Master Of Puppets is the album we’re dipping into here, for the epic “Orion” instrumental. Always a poignant track for diehard Metallica fans – it contains some of the late Cliff Burton’s finest ever bass playing – it builds through its eight minutes from a quiet(ish), chugging intro, through to a heavy, heavy finale.

Whatever your thoughts on Metallica, there is no denying the fact that they have been often imitated but never, ever bettered – and this track is just one of many examples which emphatically prove the point.

Download: Metallica – Orion

Well… what are you waiting for?


Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Great Songs By Shit Bands (#1)

It may not have escaped your attention that there are literally thousands of bands out there in the world who can justifiably be described as "shit". Some reach utterly inexplicable heights of success due to what one can only presume is abject stupidity on the part of the record-buying public (step forward, My Chemical Romance), without even looking like writing anything that could be loosely classed as listenable. Some, on the other hand, slog away producing turd after turd, and then, sometimes - they release a track of such brilliance it's hard to believe they were so crap in the first place. This, the first of what will be a regular series, focuses on those moments of wonder which were recorded by bands who should at any other time just be tortured to death to save us the misery of having to listen to any more of their deluded nonsense.

First up is the very track that made me think of running this series in the first place. The not-so-mighty Feeder shot to fame in 2001 with the astonishingly inept "Buck Rogers" single (complete with such lyrics as "Drink cider from a lemon-lemon-lemon-lemon" - or something). Risible as that song was (and still is), it sold by the hatful. To who, I know not - hopefully nobody I've ever met though. Four years earlier though, they released a rather better album by the name of Polythene which included one track, "Suffocate", which is a thing of pure beauty. Four-and-a-half-minutes of sweeping emotion, it remains an utter enigma - how did it come from the same band? How? Listen, and judge for yourself...

Now then, if you thought "Buck Rogers" was fucking irritating, then you'll bite your own fingers off at the gruesome memory of "You're Gorgeous" by Babybird. On the back of Britpop, even my arse could have had a Top Ten hit (had it only been able to pick up a guitar) and as a result of this, even the word "gorgeous" suddenly seemed appropriate for use in a mainstream indie hit. Fact - it isn't. It sounds shit. Babybird fans will try and tell you that the whole thing was desperately ironic, but poke them in the eye and say "NO!". Ironic it was not - utter bollocks it most certainly was.

Thankfully Stephen Jones (the one-man Babybird - pictured) did redeem himself a couple of years later with this next track, "Take Me Back" which bore absolutely no resemblance to gorgeousness whatsoever. Instead, it's a dark and disturbing six minutes of songwriting genius which I never tire of hearing. And now it's your turn.

This last one (for now) is a bit of a cheat. I don't really think Stereophonics have always been a shit band, as such. In fact, their first two albums (Word Gets Around and Performance And Cocktails) aren't far short of indie-rock classics. HOWEVER. That was a big however. Following those two near-flawless albums, something happened (in a kind of a Be Here Now sort of a way) and Stereophonics became, overnight, The Worst Band On The Planet. Was it Kelly Jones' nauseating ego that did it? His hairdresser? Or did they just "do a Noel" and think you could fart out any old garbage and still go platinum? Whatever it was, they've never recovered. By way of a reminder that even shit bands might once have been fucking awesome, here is the 'Phonics ode to a departed friend, Local Boy In The Photograph, from their 1997 debut. It's got heart, and big bollocks - something sadly lacking from their later work.

That's it for now. Sorry for the big gap - back sooner next time.


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

More Poetic Justice

Following on from the last post, I'd like to say firstly that the gig was a massive success. I had a blast. I thought it might be nice to follow it up with some poetry. Not the boring, shite kind, obviously - the rousing, inventive, ballsy kind.

I hold no truck with dull, "trees and flowers", poetry. I like the political, the provocative, and the powerful. That throwaway, pretty stuff is fine for those who like that sort of thing (and respect to them for it) but for me... no.

The first poem I ever learnt to recite, some years ago now, was "Kung Fu International" by the great John Cooper Clarke (pictured left). The Salford Bard opened my eyes to something I had never heard or seen before - poetry could be sex, drugs, rock n roll and everything in between. I can still recite that poem, from start to finish, flawlessly, whether sober or drunk. I can do "I Married A Monster From Outer Space" as well.

Great as these poems are, for my mind JCC's finest moment is one of his most infamous. I refer to the poem "Twat" (which Clarke used to dedicate to Michael Heseltine, back in the day). The number of lines, in this single piece of poetry, which are approaching sheer genius are quite staggering. Listen - even if you think you don't like poetry - and be amazed.

Another favourite of mine is that evergreen curmudgeon, Attila The Stockbroker. Seeing the man live - I've had the pleasure several times - is a lesson in how to do it. His delivery, polished over nearly thirty years, is second to none. I could have chosen any number of tracks to post on here but the one I've gone for is "Asylum Seeking Daleks", partly because I am so heartily in agreement of its cynicism towards the gutter press, who are almost entirely responsible for the moral panic created around the myth of the (gasp) "asylum seeker" - in the mind of the Daily Mail's readership, an asylum seeker is not someone who has escaped terrible hardship, torture or certain death, but a knife-wielding drug dealer with a sun tan who just likes the idea of an extended holiday in a Dover detention centre. Anyway, I'll let Attila fill in the details...

From the quintessentially English poetry of John Cooper Clarke and Attila The Stockbroker, I move to a different camp completely.
The African-American collective The Last Poets fused poetry with hip-hop and politics - tellingly, the band was officially formed on Malcolm X's birthday. The Poets were undoubtedly ahead of their time - their first album was released in 1970 and covered many topics that the likes of Public Enemy would turn into mainstream rap only many years later. That debut (self titled) LP remains a landmark in the history of black music, seen by many as almost prophetic.
Here are the Last Poets at their brilliant best.

That, then, is poetry.


Friday, 18 April 2008

Shameless Self Promotion (part 1)

A date for your diaries folks. Next Thursday (April 24th) I'll be doing a short poetry set at the Adelphi, Hull. There'l be allsorts of other goings-on including music from Stickpin and the utterly brilliant CrackTown.

This means nothing to many of our readers. We keep an eye on where you're all from and we know that, for reasons unknown, a large portion of our readership comes from Spain and Germany. I have no idea why this would be - but if you happen to live in, say, another country, then please don't feel you have to come to the gig. It'd be kind of you but probably a little disconcerting as well. (Incidentally, there's a post coming soon just for you Spanish and German readers - a sort of "thank you" to you for being so loyal - keep your eyes peeled for it).

Say, here's a bit of CrackTown ("music for dog fights") just for the Hell of it.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Ill Communication... Well, Not Anymore...

Well, would you Adam-and-Eve it? After I posted that last "I'M BACK!" message, what should happen? I got flu. I don't mean "Man Flu"... I mean the proper sort, where you can't get out of bed and your body gets possessed by pain-demons. It was, it's fair to say, a bloody awful week or so.

I did feel a proper Charlie as well - I promised MP3s, but then I immediately disappeared again. But now you know the reason. So sorry.

Now, I am definitely back, and no longer infected with anything nasty, so here we go with some long-awaited musicalityness. First up is this charming track from Andy Irvine, veteran of such Irish stalwarts as Sweeney's Men and Planxty. "Never Tire Of The Road" is from 1991's Rude Awakening album.

Going off on a tangent, for no particular reason really, our second track is the brilliantly titled "My Mother Smokes Crack Rocks" by the late Wesley Willis (pictured above). Let's not beat about the bush here - Willis was bona fide Looney Tunes, apparently fond of greeting friends with a resounding headbutt. He claimed to make music in order to drown out the voices in his head. Despite little actual talent, his music had a certain charm, and attracted a host of high-profile fans. Chief among them was Jello Biafra, erstwhile frontman with the Dead Kennedys. Biafra took it upon himself to get Willis's music heard by a wider audience and subsequently released much of the big man's back catalogue on the Kennedys' Alternative Tentacles label. It takes more than one listen to "get" this Casio-driven slice of madness - but it's worth persisting.

From one eccentric to another, this time one who remains alive and well - and the world is a better place for it. Wayne County is unique, having been an integral part of both the US New Wave scene and the British punk explosion of 1977 (having already become Jayne County, she was living and performing in the UK by that time). County's own music seems to have been relegated to footnote status in the story of her gender issues - yet this is criminal, as, with the Electric Chairs (as her backing band was known), County produced some genuinely great punk moments which deserve better than to be forgotten. Here is the track which could just be her signature - "Man Enough To Be A Woman". There's clearly a big New York Dolls influence on this particular track. Download it and give it a spin. It's a lost classic.
That's all for today. A bit of a mixed bag but it's nice to be back in business and I thought that was best celebrated with some genuine eclecticism - that, after all, is the name o' the game.
Next post, methinks, will be the first of one of our new regular themed posts. I haven't decided which one yet. Do try to contain your excitement. In the meantime, enjoy the music from this post - catch you soon. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Guess who's back!

Greetings one and all! Your intrepid editor is finally back on the Interweb, on a proper computer an' all!

It's been a long ride, reversing the effects of last year's floods which slightly damaged our house (not much, but enough for several weeks worth of decorating, plastering and general arsing about). The computer has been reduced to its component parts, stashed upstairs and rendered too much hassle to use. Plus, living in one room only tends not to leave much space for large desktop PC systems.

Still, today all the furniture came back in (atop spiffing new carpets), and as a matter of priority yours truly set about connecting up the various bits of computer and hi-fi equipment without delay. Bloody marvellous. For the last couple of months the only music I've had has been (a) listening to on my work laptop, which was great but for the tinny laptop speaker, which makes everything sound like it was recorded on wax cylinder, and (b) listening to old cassettes which were the only things I could lay my hands on in the house while I was decorating. This in itself was actually quite cool as I found some gems I forgot I even owned. There was the Sultans Of Ping FC album, Casual Sex In The Cineplex, which I listened to twice, back to back, whilst painting a ceiling. Great album. There was also a notable mix tape - "Bits N Bobs" made by my good buddy Johnny Murder. On said tape were such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and Tom Petty. Though the less said about the Neil Young cover version (ever heard Sheryl Crow murdering "Heart Of Gold"? It sucks.) the better...

Anyway, I digress. This hallowed blog is now well and truly back in black, and although there aren't any MP3s to accompany this particular post (I'm knackered kids... it's been a busy one...), here's a little something to keep you going til next time...

This isn't even a video as such but it's the track which inspired the title of this blog so I'm running with it. It's "Guess Who's Back" by House Of Pain. Okay, okay, I know I'm copping out here a bit and being lazy, but come on, I've been working hard and I'm running on empty here. Besides, this is a great tune and you can't beat a bit of old skool, can you?

There'll be plentiful MP3 downloads on the next post, and I can also reveal that some regular themed posts will be starting soon, including "Great Songs By Shit Bands" and "They Always Play Love Songs". Naturally they'll all be supporting the Musicus Eclecticus ethos of "if it's alternative, and good, it's in".

See you very soon... and enjoy this...

Monday, 10 March 2008

Temporary inability to post...

Hey ho, just a quick note to apologise for my absence lately. The blog is NOT defunct, but unfortunately my house is a building site at the moment, meaning everything - including my computer - is out of action. Obviously I'm on someone else's at the mo...

Rest assured this should be sorted out soon (the wallpaper's looking lovely I must say) and we'll be back with a bang, a fanfare, and lots of rather good music.

See ya soon,
Love n hugs,
Musicus Eclecticus

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Whipping Boy - Heartworm

Every now and again you stumble upon an album so astonishing in its brilliance, that you assume it must have sold by the truckload and somehow just passed you by. Sadly of course, this is often not the case. Music's illustrious history is liberally scattered with great albums which just didn't make it out into the wider consciousness, for one reason or another, and sometimes it just makes no sense.

Sometimes an album simply has the misfortune to be released at the wrong time. Such is the case with Heartworm, the second album from Irish indie-rockers Whipping Boy. Their debut effort, the long-deleted Submarine, could scarcely have sold fewer copies had they not released it at all. It offered nothing to suggest that Whipping Boy would be anything other than tiny fish in the crowded indie pond.

However, then came the startling, dark and emotional (not to mention briefly controversial) sophomore album that was Heartworm. Released in 1995, it was perhaps just a couple of years ahead of its time. Certainly, you only need to get halfway through opening track (and first single) "Twinkle" to see where Snow Patrol got their ideas from. Had this album come out in 1997 or 1998 (or perhaps later), it's not inconceivable that Whipping Boy would have been huge stars by now, and Snow Patrol would be dismissed as mere copyists.

It is perhaps unfair to labour the Snow Patrol comparisons. Whipping Boy's output is far darker in tone than Snow Patrol, not least on "We Don't Need Nobody Else", an almost spoken-word piece which delves into the dark heart of domestic violence. Lyrics like "I hit you for the first time today" (a chillingly-worded line if ever there was one) and "That really hurt, you said / Yeah / And you thought you knew me" led to misguided accusations of misogyny (presumably from critics who hadn't actually listened to the song). This is one of those rare songs that can send a shiver down the spine.

Both of those songs are included for download below, alongside "Users", another songwriting masterclass ("Remember how not long ago, we screwed away the pain").

Grab them all, and listen carefully. This lot really were as good as I say they were.

Download: Whipping Boy - Twinkle
Download: Whipping Boy - We Don't Need Nobody Else
Download: Whipping Boy - Users

There is an official website for Whipping Boy here but it doesn't appear to have been updated for a while - still worth a look though.

Most importantly, you can buy Heartworm here at Amazon UK (and it's pretty cheap too!) or at HMV (also cheap!) or wherever else you prefer to shop!

That's all for now, folks...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Cover Lay Down

Occasionally I stumble on another MP3 blog which is so astoundingly good that I want to tell everyone about it. Can you see where I'm heading here?

Last night I happened to find the truly excellent Cover Lay Down blog. This US-based site showcases, "Folk covers of familiar songs" and "Reimagined versions of folk song". Now, this is so far up my street it's virtually living in my back bedroom. I have an unhealthy level of interest in cover versions and as regular readers will know, I'm an unashamed folky to boot. Have a look at Cover Lay Down - it's a fantastic site with some great tracks to listen to.

Inspired as I am by that swanky blog, I thought a nice way to accompany this hefty plug would be to post a couple of cover versions myself (that's not cheating, is it?).

First up is Christy Moore covering Woody Guthrie's The Ludlow Massacre. This emotive song tells the story of the 1914 Ludlow Coal Massacre, at which the Colorado National Guard attacked a colony of striking miners and their families, killing 25 people - including 12 children. A cheery story it may not be, but it's a startling song and needs to be heard. Also worth looking up is Ramblin' Jack Elliott's version (and Guthrie's original, of course). Christy's version comes from his first solo album, 1972's "Prosperous".

Whilst trawling through the Cover Lay Down archives yesterday, I came across Patti Smith and her sublime version of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. That reminded me of another excellent version of the same song.

In 1992, Tori Amos released the 5-track EP, "Crucify". Three of the five tracks are cover versions (Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones are the other two). As a whole, it's a fine record, but the standout track is easily Smells Like Teen Spirit, wherein Kurt Cobain's grunge megalith is transformed into a stark piano/voice ballad. It might not be genius, but it's not far off...

Finally for today, here's a slice of classic psychedelia from 1968. This is Deep Purple, from their very first album "Shades Of Deep Purple". Those unfamiliar with the Purple's first two albums may be surprised at the sound - it would be a while before they evolved into the rock behemoths behind Smoke On The Water and Black Night. Anyway, here they are doing a song by some band called The Beatles.

That's all for now, folks. Catch you again soon.

Artist web links:

Christy Moore
Tori Amos
Deep Purple

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow

Some 80-odd years ago, A.P. Carter (or to give him his rather flamboyant - though rarely used - full name, Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter) penned "Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow". It is doubtful that he would have had even the slightest inkling that this song (and many of his other compositions) would become a folk standard. Yet, here we are today and it remains an extremely famous folk song, recorded by just about every man and his dog. Actually, in all fairness, I am not sure whether or not any dogs have ever recorded the song, but certainly quite a few human beings have. I may have made up the bit about the dog.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and I'm not dressed for it, so here we go. Here is the original version of the track, recorded by The Carter Family back in 1920-something.

Download: The Carter Family - Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow

In 2003, Natalie Merchant released "The House Carpenter's Daughter", an astonishing collection of folk songs (traditional and contemporary) delivered beautifully, with that voice allowed to shine. It's a magnificent album, with some moments of genuine brilliance and not a single second of filler. It's THAT good.

A polished version of "Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow" is one of the album's (many) highlights. Radically different to the Carter Family sound, it introduces some wonderful bluegrass fiddle into the mix and the result is a rollicking good listen.

Download: Natalie Merchant - Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow


Friday, 4 January 2008

Sonic Dick Verucas!

Hello again, and here we are with the first batch of MP3s for the New Year. Yeah, it's 2008! Since the last post I've been music shopping again, and the latest Amazon delivery (when it gets here) will have some spiffing CDs by Sonic Youth (who I've long had a love affair with), Whipping Boy and most excitingly, a trip back in time with baggy demigods Flowered Up (the "Best Of", which has been on my Wants List for some time now).

All things considered (well, maybe not all things, but certainly the last paragraph for starters...) your first track for today would be the mighty Sonic Youth (pictured). Lifted from their "Dirty" album (their second for Geffen), this was a minor hit, and as such I really should've come up with something a little more inventive. But hey, this is a bit of a classic, so why not...

Continuing in a similar alt.rock vein (and with an equally brilliant song), here's a track which I used to hear week in and week out when I worked in a certain nightclub in these parts. That nightclub was called "Spiders" and it was quite a significant part of my life (sadly, it's shit now, but that's the way it goes). There were a few tracks which used to get spun all the time. Some I loved, some I hated. This was one of the ones I loved, a forgotten gem from Veruca Salt.

Download: Veruca Salt - Seether

And finally (for now), as it's a New Year, let's make a wish. My wish - peace and love, etcetera. Best illustrated I feel, with some mid-80s U.S. hardcore, in the shape of the rather brilliant (and shockingly unknown) Dicks. This is the seminal "No Fuckin' War", and as an anthem to a new beginning, ain't half bad.

Download: Dicks - No Fuckin' War

Okaaaaaaaaaaay then. It's 2008.

Some heavy stuff here - next time I think we'll turn the volume down a bit and go for something a little more chilled... hmmm... what will it be...

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Greetings one and all, and welcome back to Musicus Eclecticus.

Sadly as it's been holiday season we have not had time to update the blog, preferring instead to spend most of Christmas and the New Year drinking alcohol until blood seeped from our every orifice. No, of course not. That only happened the once. And it wasn't really blood, but rather some strange form of other-worldly ectoplasm normally only emitted by certain extraterrestrial lifeforms. Or was it all just a dream? Who knows?

On a musical tip, we did find time to see The Pogues and Billy Bragg live in Manchester, met three Pogues and one Bragg, and also (in a separate incident) somehow managed to agree to see Jack Penate sometime in February, which will probably involve being surrounded by nubile young students making this writer feel very old indeed. Ah... the things you do for love.

Through Christmas, onto our Welcome mat dropped CDs from Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Donovan, Gil Scott-Heron, JJ72 and The Carter Family, among others... as well as some nice shiny vinyl from the rather brill Reverend & The Makers.

Check back in a day or two for some nice MP3s for you to download. As they'll be the first of the year, we'll make 'em good ones.

Catch yez later.