Friday, 30 January 2015

Rod McKuen (1933 - 2015)

Only a few weeks ago I mentioned in a reply to a comment by our pal , The Swede, that I very soon intended to write a post about singer-songwriter and poet, Rod McKuen. This morning I discovered that he has died. I remember Rod from his many appearances on UK TV during the 60's and 70's and there was always something about that reedy, rather ragged vocal style of his that appealed to me greatly. Rod wrote songs that were recorded by many well known artists, such as Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Waylon Jennings, Petula Clark and Andy Williams but his finest achievement as a writer of songs was probably Frank Sinatra's A Man Alone: The Words and Music of Rod McKuen (1969), an LP specially commissioned by Sinatra, who knew a thing or two about great songwriting.

Here's Rod's own version of one of the songs from the Sinatra record.

Lonesome Cities

A Man Alone also feared a tune that was to become one of McKuen's best loved compositions:

Love's Been Good To Me

As poet, Rod published many volumes that were highly popular with the public and universally disliked by the critics. He was not an academic writer; he didn't try to be clever; he just wrote from the heart. Perhaps it was never 'great' poetry but it touched many people deeply. Personally, I'll take Rod over Ezra Pound every single day of the week.

Do Not Tell Me Your Name

Sentimental? Yes. But this kind of poetry meant a lot to many people who wouldn't normally go anywhere near a line of verse.

To add further to Rod's many achievements,  he was one of the post important English speaking artists to bring the work of Jacques Brel to the attention of the wider world. For that alone, he deserves our thanks.

RIP, Rod McKuen.

Seasons In The Sun

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Juwon Ogungbe

Having just discovered Juwon Ogungbe's album, Life Force Music (2012) and made it my album of the week (see sidebar for this regular feature), here's a song called 'Daydreams' that you won't find on the record. This solo performance is quite something but I really urge you to listen to Life Force Music (sign up to Spotify if necessary) to get a real sense of what he is about. As is my wont, I liberated my copy from a charity shop for 75p. Best few bob spent in ages. Juwon Ogungbe has worked in theatre and has written a number of scores. His music is a glorious melting pot of classic songwriting, soul, jazz, some reggae here and there and African influences. You can't go wrong.


The Pop Group

Mad Truth (2015)

New release by The Pop Group from the soon-come (23rd Feb) first album in thirty five years, Citizen Zombie. Produced by Paul Epworth, who is known for his work with the likes of Adele, Coldplay and Ce Lo Green amongst a host of others. I guess they really are having a go at being a 'pop group' at last. Not sure what to make of this move myself; will have to give the whole album a listen as and when. Until then, no further comment.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Project Country

Minimal Gear

Can't get a I'm starting on a new project to go along with all my other madcap schemes: I'm going to turn myself into a country artist. I've a pile of records, a few books, a guitar and very tiny amp with which to achieve this unlikely aim. I expect all my performances will be live and direct in our front room but who knows? I haven't sung or played anything with any purpose for years, so this'll take a long time to even begin to make any sense. Actually, I may fail miserably but it will be interesting adding it to my list of things to do. I'll report back every now and then with news of my progress but I don't have a programme (is that how we still spell it over here?) to upload my own performances, so you'll have to take my word for it for the time being.

Better choose a tune to start, How about Hank's 'Cold, Cold Heart?

Hank Williams

All I need now is a Nudie Suit and a big hat.

Vinyl Haul: A Return To The Psychiatrists Couch

Another glance at some of the highlights of my recent lucky streak on charity shop searches. Must have paid no more than a tenner for this selection. All to be cherished and aurally caressed. Analysis of the state of mind of such a man who'd want these albums most welcome. More in the near future.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

British Sea Power In Session Shock

In my self appointed role as BSP's under the radar publicist ( who hardly anyone reads or takes any notice of but you've got to have a hobby) I need to give thanks to The Swede  for reminding me in the nick of time that our lads and lass were 'in session' tonight on Marc Riley's BBC Radio 6 show along with Redbridge Brass Band. BSP have been doing a number of shows featuring full brass band accompaniment over the past months (check to see where I've mentioned this before) and you can hear exactly what this sounds like by catching up on the BBC iPlayer. Basically, bloody brilliant and, just like the old kids' show Magpie, something you must not miss. Now, can I have my name on the guest list for the Roundhouse, please?

Waving Flags (24.1.15)

Time Makes Fools Of Us All: Joy Division

Here's a contentious one. One of the greatest and coolest bands of all time but check Barney's short sleeved shirt and tie get-up. Stephen was obviously dressed by his mum for this photo shoot. It only makes you love them all  the more.