This month’s music sampler. It’s been a cold, grey start to 2022. Let’s see if we can warm up with some tasty tunes which have been warming my cockles this month. I hope you find something new to love.
One Way Glass: Manfred Mann Chapter Three
This starts with a pounding groove, a real jackhammer drumbeat and thumping bass combination and explodes into a triumphal horn blast which attracted the attention of Liam Howlett, who used it in The Prodigy’s Stand Up. The band liked it so much they had another pop at it on a later album, but it’s the hornier version that has all the swing.
It Hurts So Good: Millie Jackson
Millie Jackson is a victim of the strange prejudice audiences have for music produced by artists who do not appear to take the world seriously. It’s the same problem that artists such as Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa and to a degree, The Beach Boys had. If you’re not serious then the music is meaningless, seems to be the argument. Seems like bollocks to me. God forbid an artist has more than one facet to their personality. This is one of the great soul singles of the 70s and Millie was a pioneer of the half sung, half spoken style so beloved of Teddy Prendegast and Isaac Hayes amongst others. That Muscle-Shoals sound is in full effect here too.
Ford Mustang: Serge Gainsbourg
Effortlessly cool, this track features another of those late 60s pumping basslines, and the breathy vocals of Madeline Bell adding a counterpoint to Gainsbourg’s own. The combination of sex and cars was later explored by JG Ballard in his novel ‘Crash’; a controversial film adaptation was made by David Cronenberg in the 90s. But here is the real deal. You don’t need a degree in Philosophy to feel the weirdly erotic allure of the motor vehicle here. It just is.
Somebody New: Swim Mountain
Bursting sunnily from the fertile imagination of London-based artist and producer Tom Skyrme, this one skips along on a massively infectious slab of rhythm guitar, which slips beautifully through subtle chord amendments (they’re too slight to feel like whole chord changes) over analogue synths. It’s a template that Tame Impala have made their own but this is accomplished enough to stand apart. Add a beautifully Californian break in the mid-section of the song and you get a perfectly formed funky pop song.
Anima Latina: Lucio Battisti
It’s miserable outside; let’s stay in the sun. This is just incredible, a heady mix of Latin rhythms and progressive rock, like what would happen if Seu Jorge got high with Peter Gabriel in a samba bar. The truly incredible thing is that it was released in 1974, yet it sounds totally fresh. Although well known in his native Italy, Battisi, who died in 1998 deserved much wider acclaim.Totally indefinable, this is uplifting, soul-affirming music.
Sub-Rosa Subway: Klaatu
Klaatu have a fascinating history. Formed in 1973, they released 5 albums between 76 and 81. The first album was released to a generally disinterested public and it appeared that that was going to be that for the band. But then journalist Steve Smith wrote a piece positing the idea that Klaatu were, in fact, the recently disbanded Beatles, recording in disguise! Enough people bought the idea, and the records started to sell, until the cover was blown and the public, unhappy at being duped (although the band did nothing to stimulate the rumours), dropped them like a stone. Which leaves the records. This comes from the first album, and you can hear why the idea gained some traction back then. If you close your eyes, you can imagine that this is a song recorded in the heady days of the early 70s, in the afterglow of Abbey Road. Their other claim to fame? Weirdly, The Carpenters had a hit single with the band’s ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’, taken from the same album. Got to love the 70s…
Stoned at the Nail Salon: Lorde
Pretty song. Reflections on time passing from someone who has plenty of time still to reflect on it. This works especially well if you put it on headphones and pretend it’s a late summer evening, and you’re outside, and the sun is warm, and bees are humming lazily around you.
Hope that’s put you in the right place to deal with February!