18th November 2020
Between the Dark Country Blues and the cynical quirkiness of Blues Saraceno and The Taxpayers to the vocal skill of Wendy Oldfield and Courtney Hadwin, its been an interesting week. Here’s your 7-day catch-up!
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.
Aug 8th – 14th: Musicians Featured
The Taxpayers – Wendy Oldfield – Ian Anderson – Sofa Surfers – Alanis Morrisette – Blues Saraceno – Courtney Hadwin
8th Aug: The Taxpayers started in 2007 and after a few dodgy self-promoted performances at their communal home, they started getting their sound together enough to start playing local gigs and local post-punk concerts. The communal spirit is a part of the band, and when they were evicted, they all moved into a new house and the number of home shows increased. They recorded Exhilarating News in the garage of the new headquarters. After yet another eviction notice the band decided that a tour was in order.
I’ll carry on their strange story later, but in the meantime have a listen to a song that would be worthy of Tom Waits, Love You Like an Alcoholic. It’s really catchy.
The Taxpayers recorded the second album after their haphazard tour in a $300 rental van. Due to setbacks, broken wrists and newborn babies, the recording took longer than expected, but the self-released ‘A Rhythm in the Cages’ eventually saw the light of day. Some time passed and a third album emerged. By then they were sick of the freezing Portland winters and decided to embark of a tour to Florida.
They eventually settled in Sarasota, Florida, which they knew very little about, but ended up living in a storage container that they managed to rent for $50 a month! This was a time of busking and songwriting, many of which were ditched, but after a year they had 15 workable songs that they were happy with.
Here’s a track from the strangely named album, To Risk So Much For One Damn Meal, and the neo-punk number, My Brother Isn’t Dying. It’s an odd one.
I don’t think you can put The Taxpayers into one particular musical pigeon hole, some of the songs are punk-inspired, there’s some folk, and as you’ll hear in this song Hungry Dog in the Street, some trad blues influences as well. Sometimes they remind me of the Violent Femmes, and sometimes Tom Waits, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that they have managed to carve a pretty distinctive sound. I listened to the whole album and it’s an odd collection but there are some great tracks within the madness.
The band carry their fun community spirit into their names; Rob Taxpayer sings and plays the guitar, Noah Taxpayer plays the drums, Dylan Taxpayer sings and plays accordion and keyboard, Phil Gobstopper plays bass, Kevin Taxpayer plays the trumpet, Alex Saxplayer plays Baritone Saxophone, and Andrew Taxpayer plays Banjo and Guitar.
It’s always fun to delve into a band you know little about, and I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s excursion. 😎
9th Aug: As it is Woman’s Day here in South Africa, I am naturally featuring a very special lady who has earned her place in South African music history, Wendy Oldfield. I must have seen her band, Sweatband, shortly after they formed in 1983 at a gig they played at The Dros in Stellenbosch. I still have a photo of her that I took on the night. (One day I will find it and send it to her).
Wendy was only 19-years-old at the time, but this was a woman with a mission. Sweatband made waves in a very turbulent period of history with their special style of pop. Hits like This Boy and Shape of Her Body cemented Sweatband’s name in the lexicon of SA music.
Wendy decided to pursue a solo career in 1988 and after a two-year involvement with the band Mondetta, launched her first solo album, Beautiful World, from where today’s first song comes from. The album won her the Oktave Award for Best Female Vocalist and the song Miracle nominated as song of the year.
I am starting my Wendy Oldfield mini-feature with a track that many will remember, Acid Rain. The song charted twice on local radio, once with the studio version, and the second called ‘Acid Remix’. Whichever you preferred, it’s a great song.
My second Wendy Oldfield song for today is from a live performance that she and Lionel Bastos played at Cafe Roux in Cape Town’s village of Noordhoek. Lionel and Wendy often perform together when Lionel returns to South Africa from his far-flung travels, and I promise to do a mini-feature on this excellent musician and really nice guy sometime in the future.
The song is her introspective look at our planet in relation to the universe, Pale Blue Dot. The song is from her 4th solo album, On A Pale Blue Dot for which she won the FNB Pop Album of the Year award. She also contributed the song to the Hawaii Relief album that Lionel initiated after the devastating earthquake of 2010.
Although this clip may not be the best sound quality, it shows Wendy’s mesmerising delivery and the beautiful guitar of Lionel Bastos. Enjoy.
I’m closing my Wendy Oldfield selection with the title track from her 5th album, Holy Water, for which she was nominated for the Best Adult Contemporary award at the annual SAMA awards.
Wendy doesn’t only write for adults. Few know that she is also the talent behind the African Cream Kidz children’s music range. A mother of three herself, she realised the shortage of homegrown music that was available for kids.
Under the African Cream Kidz banner, Oldfield has produced Under African Skies – traditional children’s stories set to catchy melodies that celebrate the heritage of oral storytelling, which has won numerous awards.
Here’s the song originally released on the 2002 album and reissued on her ‘Collection’ album of 2008. Thanks for joining me to celebrate yet another of our local musical legends today, and thank you, Wendy Oldfield, for years of wonderful music. 😎
10th Aug: The music press is full of birthday wishes today for the founder of the legendary group Jethro Tull. Ian Anderson turns 73-years-old today and it would be rude and remiss of me not to play three of my favourite Jethro Tull tracks to mark the occasion. I haven’t chosen the normal favourites, but tracks that have resonated with me through the years.
Although Jethro Tull was regarded as one of the Prog Rock bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Ian actually started playing blues with his first band, The Blades in 1963. He says that at the time to be recognised or get a record deal you had to play blues or pop. He knew he would never be very good at either, and was inspired by the recordings of Captain Beefheart, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin inspired him to expand his musical ambitions.
Although Ian Anderson is regarded as the man who introduced the flute to Rock music, he had no idea how to play it when he first bought one. “I bought it for no good reason other than it looked nice and shiny” he claims. He couldn’t get a note out of it and didn’t touch it for 6-months when someone told him to blow across the mouthpiece and not into it.
Gradually he got the hang of it and it eventually became his signature instrument, with Ian playing in while standing on his right leg and hopping around the stage. Over the years all of these stage gymnastics have taken their toll and he suffers from a torn meniscus in the knee joint.
Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull’s history has been well documented, so I’m sticking with some interesting facts for today’s feature rather than a potted history of a legendary man and group. I’m starting with the track Mother Goose from the 1971 album that helped define his future, Aqualung.
I’m jumping forward a few years to 1987 for the next song from Ian Anderson, taken from his 16th studio album, Crest of a Knave. Anderson’s vocal style had been affected by a persistent throat infection that had brought a three-year hiatus in his career. Despite the break, the album was the bands most successful since their heyday in the ‘70s, winning them the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. Ian Anderson chose not to attend the ceremony, regarding the whole ‘award circus’ as preposterous.
I think he was more impressed with being awarded a Doctorate in Literature from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh in 2006, the Ivor Award for International Achievement in Music and, an MBE for services to music in the 2008 New Years Honours List. In 2011, he received another Doctorate in Literature from Dundee University.
In their 50 years, Jethro Tull has achieved an impressive 15 gold or platinum albums with songs that are now deep within our musical DNA, yet Ian Anderson still hasn’t been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A sadly overlooked error in my opinion.
But back to the music. This recording of the remarkable song, Budapest, was taken from the DVD box-set that was compiled from various live performances from across the years and demonstrates Ian Anderson’s stage personality perfectly.
To finish today’s celebration of Ian Anderson’s 73rd birthday I have chosen a song from the last album that contained any original material. The Jethro Tull Christmas Album is a far cry from the shmaltzy offerings from ageing musicians who feel they have to give us yet another spin on corny Christmas songs. This gem contains some lovely numbers, as you’ll hear on the very funny, Last Man at the Party. (2003).
Having played more than 3000 concerts in 40 countries over 5 decades, he continues to tour, mainly under his own name, enchanting fans old and new with his distinct sound and style of music. Ian Anderson is a very low-key, unassuming man with hobbies that include growing chilli peppers, collecting fountain pens and vintage cameras, and on the conservation front, helping the preservation of the 26 species of small wildcats left on the planet.
When asked in an interview if he feels life has been good to him, he replied “One of my favourite hobbies is waking up in the morning. I like to wake up in the morning every twenty-four hours! It’s a great pursuit to follow. And the first thing I feel when I wake up is a feeling of gratitude.” Well said, Mr Anderson. Here’s the New Year’s tale of The Last Man at the Party.
Thanks for joining me in wishing Ian Anderson a happy birthday today, and hope the start of the new week has been gentle. 😎
11th Aug: I have a conflicting like for Alanis Morissette’s music. I think she’s a superb singer/songwriter who touches on very awkward topics that tend to pick the emotional scabs of her devoted following of listeners. And therein lies my conflict. Do I want my emotional scabs picked quite so well?
I got to know ‘the poster girl for Gen X’s ironic nihilism’ (as did many), through her third album, Jagged Little Pill, which hooked me, but not enough to be a devoted fan. Last month on the 21st July she released her 9th studio album ‘Pretty Forks in the Road’, her first in eight years. I heard the promo release track a few months ago on Radio Caroline and was intrigued. This was a more mature Alanis, still pulling back the covers of painful issues, but in a controlled way. Needless to say, I eagerly awaited the release date of the full album.
As with most of her albums, the playlist is full of songs covering hard-hitting topics like post-partum depression, addiction, and insomnia, but all handled in a way that only Alanis can accomplish.
Let me start with the pre-release single that gave me the heads-up, These Are the Reasons I Drink. In a Rolling Stone interview, she explained the reason for the song. “There’s such a tendency to shame people and judge people who are reaching for the billions of whack-a-mole addictions that are out there. But the centre of all of it is people, myself included, just seeking relief from being dysregulated. And then those of us who become really addicted, it starts off as something that helps, and then eventually kills you dead. For those who have any kind of addiction; work, sex, alcohol, any kind of drugs, I have a lot of empathy for me and them, because not only are they struggling with seeking relief, but also with being judged.” Thanks for the explanation, Alanis.
Neither the song nor the video is actually as depressing as it sounds but judge that for yourself.
Before we explore the next track from Alanis Morisette’s new album, Pretty Forks in the Road, I’d like to share some information that I didn’t know before researching this mini-feature. I had no idea that Alanis’ Jagged Little Pill album had been made into a rock musical.
The show is inspired by the themes and emotions explored on the Jagged Little Pill and after initial rave reviews, started to be dissected by Broadway’s theatre critics who were mixed in their opinions. One thing they did agree on is that the performances are outstanding, and thank goodness the storyline was based rather on a plot than on the life of the person.
Back to the music with my second choice, Losing the Plot, which covers the problems of insomnia. When asked by Rolling Stone if she suffered from insomnia, Alanis responded “My temperament is wildly sensitive. So I mean, someone can be thinking something and I’m up. Especially with an almost eight-month-old. I nurse all night long. And then I’m in general postpartum activity, as I call it. The first two times I had it, it was more sort of depressive symptoms. This time around, maybe one percent is depression The rest is just anxiety and all the pictures and all the horrifying parts of PPD [postpartum depression.] But yeah, sleep is scarce. And I sleep whenever I can, which is not a large amount of time, but enough to keep going.”
Living with someone who went through postpartum depression, as I do, this song struck a chord with me. Although it sounds like it could be a bit depressing, the lyrics are actually pretty uplifting, and the composition is a bit of mastery from Alanis. Here’s Losing the Plot.
I’m going to close today’s Alanis Morisette mini-feature with a happy song that she wrote about her two children. With the years of bitter comedy and cutting introspection as the theme of so many songs, when a happy, or obviously uplifting song emerges, it stands out. And so it is with Ablaze.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a saccharine-sweet dedication to her little darlings, but rather an analysis of why she feels the way she does, with lyrics that can only have been penned by her.
Thanks for listening to a few tracks from Alanis Morisette’s new album today. I know I’ll listen to certain tracks regularly because sometimes it feels good to pick an emotional scab or two.
12th Aug: Sometimes I am going through playlists and MP3 collections that I’ve been given from friends and come across a brilliant song, but the only info is that is available is a track number. This happened to me a while ago with the elusive ‘track 17’, but with much patience and hunting, found out that track 17 was by a band called Sofa Surfers.
Although they produced ten studio albums between 1997 and 2017, and have worked on five film soundtracks, there is very little information about them. In fact, even their own website gives no detail about the members or their stories. However, I can tell you that this four-piece Austrian band have a sound that floats between Rock, Trip-Hop, Dub and Acid Jazz and their songs have been remixed by a few of my favourite Trip-Hop outfits.
Today I am featuring three Sofa Surfers songs, one by the band themselves and the other two being remixes from none other than Theivery Corporation and Kruder Dorfmeister. Let’s start with a track from the Sofa Surfers self-titled 2005 album. Here’s my elusive track 17 – the song White Noise.
As I have very little information about the band Sofa Surfers there is going to be very little to read today. What I did find out is that these fellows are highly regarded in the Trip-Hop fraternity and their songs have been covered by a few of the heavy-hitters of the genre.
Although it’s hard to put your finger on, there is something darkly compelling about many of their tracks, kind of like a suspense movie where you are drawn into a plot with surprising twists and turns.
The second Sofa Surfers track is a remix from one of Trip-Hop’s royalty, Kruder Dorfmeister, and a song that any fan of theirs will recognise, but not know who the original artists were. Here’s their take on Sofa Rocks.
To finish up this mini-feature I have chosen a reworking of a Sofa Surfers song from the 2002 ‘Encounters’ album.
Thievery Corporation needs no introduction to this page and are up there of my top-5 outfits in their genre. Here they lend their expertise to an already excellent song, Can I Get A Witness.
Thanks for this quick look and listen to a band that many of you may never have heard before today. I hope your musical world is better for it! Catch you tomorrow. 😎
13th Aug: I’ve got a soft spot for Blues Saraceno’s style of playing. His brooding blues/rock, often referred to as Dark Country, is probably heard more in video games and TV series than from his solo albums. So, who is Blues Saraceno and where did he come from?
Saraceno started playing the guitar at 9-years-old and by the age of sixteen was chosen to back one of the songs on Cher’s Heart of Stone album after his manager sent a demo tape to Michael Bolton.
The demo was then picked up by the Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine who were suitably impressed. They were about to launch a new record label and offered Saraceno the record deal that saw the release of his first album, Never Look Back, in 1989. What happened then is the stuff of dreams for most guitarists, but we’ll discuss that after listening to his powerful track, Dogs of War.
I first heard the track when my housemate was playing a video game with a very cool soundtrack. I should remember the name of the game as I spent quite some time going through the internal game files trying to find out more. Although I can’t remember the game’s name, I did unearth a lot of very cool tracks.
After the release of his first album, Saraceno won an audition with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker and joined them for two successful tours, becoming known as ‘the kid who replaced Eric Clapton’. During this time he released another two albums, Plaid and Hairpick.
His stint among the big names in the industry had made Blues Saraceno a sought-after and top-rated session guitarist, and (happily) he was swamped with musical equipment endorsements.
In 1993 he joined the band Poison as lead guitarist and recorded the album Crack a Smile with them before leaving to produce soundtracks for several TV shows and films. This has now become a huge part of Blues Saraceno’s musical presence, having worked with and for all of the major networks. My second choice today is from the 2015 ‘Outlaw Blues 2’ album. Here’s 7th Born Son.
When questioned about his distinctive guitar style he claims that it is his lack of formal music lessons that has helped develop it. This may be one of the few times I’ll condone not having music lessons because it really worked for him!
For the video game fraternity amongst our members, you’ve probably heard all of today’s featured songs while battling your way through titles like God of War, Ascension, Call of Jurez, BioShock, Rebel Galaxy… and so the list goes on.
Even those of you aren’t video game fans you have probably heard one of his brooding songs in one of the hundreds of TV soundtracks and adverts he has written and/or produced. He has commented on how it is not uncommon to have multiple commercials running in multiple countries throughout the world, all at the same time and using the same piece of music . To close today’s bit of Dark Country Blues here’s Blues Saraceno telling us all about The River. Thanks for joining me today to find out more about yet another musician who deserves a lot more recognition. Keep warm folks, there’s a cold front on our doorsteps’! Catch you tomorrow. 😎
14th Aug: I am so happy to feature a very special young lady today. Some of you may remember the dynamic performance from a nervous-looking 14-year-old who brought the house down on the 2018 America’s Got Talent, with Otis Redding’s ‘Hard to Handle’. She got Howie Mandel’s golden buzzer and the audition video went viral, now being viewed over 230 million times on YouTube
My sincere hope was that someone would take Courtney under their wing and teach her how to control her huge voice. My hopes were realised and last September we saw her beautiful 4-track mini-album, The Cover Sessions, released on the Arista/Syco Label. As the name suggests, these are covers from artists as diverse as Harry Styles and Lil Nas X.
Being a sucker for a good bluesy ballad, I’m going to start the selection with the Harry Styles song, Sign of the Times.
Although the formula-driven schmaltzy format of the ‘Got Talent’ franchise feeds my dark cynical nature sometimes, I scan the footage for any contestants that take my fancy. I must admit that there have been a few (Grace VanderWaal and Chase Goehring in particular), but none hit me quite as hard as Courtney Hadwin.
Of course, as with any ‘public vote’ show with huge prize money, the negative press wasn’t too far behind the adoration. Firstly, critics claimed, she had entered (and done pretty well in) various singing competitions, therefore wasn’t a ‘new talent’ and her nervousness that had charmed everyone was a ‘sham’. What difference it made that she had entered her first talent competition three years earlier I will never understand. The show is full of ex-musos, backing-singers and professionals hoping for their chance. Secondly, she was British. What was she doing on AGT? Anyway, however the haters wanted to knot their knickers, I’m sure it was all good for the show’s ratings.
I think it’s time for another track. Here’s her take on the Lewis Capaldi song, Someone You Loved.
Although Courtney Hadwin didn’t win the 2018 AGT season, she certainly became known and has a huge global fan-base.
She’s sometimes called the modern-day Janis Joplin; I would rather just say that there are influences of all of her main music idols, Janis, Tina, Etta and James Brown. My feeling is that she’ll take them all on, and join their ranks along the way.
This (now) 17-year-old is now managed by Larry Rudolph (Brittny Spears) and signed to Syco and Arista Records. With her effervescent stage performances and distinctive dance moves coupled with a powerhouse voice, this is a girl ready to take on stadiums.
Now my one hope of seeing an album from this teenager, my next hope is the same I have for all young talent; that they stay away from the temptations and trappings that can ruin young fame, and to live beyond 27-years-old. I’m leaving you with the Jonas Brothers song Sucker. Thanks for joining me for a bit of Courtney Hadwin today. Have a great Friday and catch you on the weekend. 😎
This article was first published on the Design Train website for Loving the Music
Words © Andrew Knapp
The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos or images used in the article