21st November 2020:
It was a fortnight where we met some Texas Gentlemen, visited the strange world of Laurie Anderson and graced the dance floors of the ’90s. We took a break and played the ukulele, got Mainly Squeezed, said hi to Kaiser Chiefs, hunted the elusive Goteye, and were amused to death with Roger Waters. It’s been busy, but it’s been fun!
1st – 7th May 2020 – Featured Musicians:
The Texas Gentlemen – Laurie Anderson – The Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Faithless – Prodigy – Underworld – Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – The Main Squeeze – Kaiser Chiefs – Goteye – Roger Waters.
1 – 4th May: Radio Caroline has been featuring a track recently that has made me sit up and listen every time it comes on. I had never heard of The Texas Gentlemen and from their name sound like they are a typical country band. Warning – names can be deceiving.
In the spirit of the truly great support groups such as The Band and The Wrecking Crew, these gents have been backing the likes of George Strait, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes and Nikki Lane for some years. After backing Kris Kristofferson (yep, still performing at 80 years old), he helped promote the band as a solo act and the debut album TX Jelly was released in 2017.
The song I’m featuring this evening is from the new album, Floor It, being released in July and if all the tracks are as well crafted as this one, we are in for a treat. I’ll keep you posted. Here’s Ain’t Nothing New.
In my quest to find out some more about The Texas Gentlemen I took a listen to their debut album and, although good, it was a little too country for me. However, the lyrics, on the other hand, are quirky as all hell and a lot of fun.
Apart from a few very good instrumentals, the song that stood out for me on the 2017 TX Jelly album is the very different ‘Superstition’. Take a listen and tell me what you think.
I will be featuring more tracks from The Texas Gentlemen when the new album is released in July. If what I have heard so far is any indication of their future, I wouldn’t be surprised if they reach the status of Little Feat, the Marshall Tucker Band and The Allman Brothers. I truly think they have it in them.
Here’s the performance that helped spark their debut album. After an absence of 45 years from the Newport Folk Festival stage, Kris Kristofferson (age 80) sings Me and Bobby McGee backed by tonight’s featured group, The Texas Gentlemen.
Just to mention that the ‘COVID blues’ started getting to me last week and I went into a bit of a dark place, hence very little activity on the page. However, I’m back, feeling better, stronger and positive that somehow something good is going to come from all this. What I have learned from the last week is that if any of you are feeling the same despondency, speak to someone, rant, rave, cry, and get it off your chest. You’ll feel so much better. 😎
5th May: I can always rely on Radio Caroline to play something during a morning’s listening that I haven’t heard in ages. Today it was Laurie Anderson and a track from the Strange Angels album. My mind immediately time travelled to the early ‘90s when the CD was seldom out of the player.
Music is only one small part of Laurie Anderson’s vast repertoire of talents, becoming well known as an avant-garde artist before releasing any music commercially. Add to that the fact that she is an accomplished film director, actor and inventor and you realise that this lady is serious business.
One of her most memorable performances as an artist and musician in the ‘70s was named Duets on Ice. It involved her playing the violin (she is a trained violinist) to a backing recording while wearing ice skates with the blades frozen in ice. The performance was complete when the ice melted. Avant-garde enough for you? I’ve chosen three tracks from her Strange Angels album just because it is my favourite of hers and because I can, starting with the title track.
Strange Angels is Laurie Anderson’s 4th studio album and in my opinion one of her finest. She even went so far as to put the recording of the album on hold for a year so she could take singing lessons. This shows in a vocal confidence that I feel is missing in her early albums. Let’s join the queen of quirk with the possibilities that The Monkey’s Paw brings
Laurie Anderson met Lou Reed in the early ‘90s and started to work on various collaborations with him. If there were two strange angels that were destined to be together it was Laurie and Lou and they were married in 2008 until his death in 2013.
From early triple groove recordings with William Burroughs, John Giorno and herself where you heard something different according to where you paced the needle, to inventing instruments to use in her performances, you never know what to expect next from this exceptional talent and highly awarded and decorated artist.
Tonight I’m closing with another favourite of mine that didn’t gain as much commercial success as O Superman (which reached #2 on the British charts and sparked her debut Big Science album), but in my opinion, is a far better song – Babydoll. 😎
6th May: I was thinking about the Raves of the ‘90s and wondering if we will ever see mass gatherings in the name of dance again in the near future. This was the era of some wonderful EDM (electronic dance music) bands and some anthems that will live well into the future. I could honestly with some of that energy after a particularly flat day so decided to visit some clips of the EDM greats.
First up tonight is a clip from a band that started as a funk and synthpop outfit and became one of the major forces on the circuit at the time, Underworld. Here they are in Berlin on the last leg of their 2016 world tour and the song from their 4th album that, thanks to the movie Trainspotting, cemented them in popular music history, Born Slippy
Keeping to the theme of classic RAVE culture and EDM anthems, here’s one that tickled the inner anarchist in all of us. This is a band that carried the Punk influence and plonked it squarely in the electronic dance music arena, sung by the late Keith Flint, here’s Firestarter. The clip is from the World on Fire DVD. Is it just me or would Keith Flint have been perfect for the character of the Joker?
The closing clip for tonight was a choice between three top acts. It could have been the Chemical Brothers or Fat Boy Slim, but instead, I decided on what I think is one of the slickest outfits of the era, Faithless. Here we join them for a performance from 2005 at the Alexandra Palace of one of their greatest anthems (and they wrote quite a few), God is a DJ.
Whether we will ever be able to gather in such huge numbers again is debatable, but as old as I may be, I would happily get lost in the energy of a Rave crowed again. Oh well. Thanks for indulging me in my choice of music for tonight. As always, stay safe and stay sane and stay listening to music. Catch you soon.😎
7th May: I love quirky, and you don’t get much quirkier than the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I was drawn to their style of music after first hearing them back in the early ‘80s (thanks Anthony), but had never known the origins of the outfit until I was researching tonight’s posts. It’s a story befitting the music.
The sadly deceased founder, composer Simon Jeffes, claims the PCO concept came to him in an involved and extremely vivid dream he had while suffering from food poisoning while in the south of France in 1972. He wrote a poem about the dream beginning “I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe, I will tell you things at random.” And so PCO was born.
Although Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s music may sound ‘random’ to some, fans will find it very clever and extremely catchy. I’m a fan. To start the PCO selection for tonight here is a track from the self-titled 1981 album, Air à Danser
Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s music is not easy to categorise. Some call it minimalist folk music with influences of Philip Glass. Simon Jeffes, the founder of Penguin Cafe Orchestra described the music of the group as “modern semi-acoustic chamber music”. Wherever you would like to try and pigeonhole it, one this is for sure, you’ll have a tough job!
The band gave its first major concert on 10 October 1976, supporting Kraftwerk at The Roundhouse in London. Their 24-year career saw them tour the world and play at a variety of music festivals as well as residencies on the South Bank in London. Here is a track from PCO’s 5th and last studio album, Union Cafe (1993), and the beautiful composition LifeBoat. The intro to this track is sublime.
After founder Simon Jeffes’ passing several members of the original group reunited for three concerts in 2007. Jeffes’ son Arthur founded a successor band simply called Penguin Cafe. Although it includes no original PCO members, the band features many PCO pieces in its live repertoire as well as recording and performing new music written by Arthur.
In closing, we are joining Arthur Jeffes and Penguin Cafe playing one of his father’s most recognisable compositions from the 1981 ‘Penguin Cafe Orchestra’ album, Telephone and Rubber Band. I hope you enjoyed taking a trip into the quirkiness of Penguin Cage Orchestra. Their brand of surreal music is kind of fitting in this strange time. As always folks, keep safe, keep sane and keep on listening to music. It will get us through this.😎
8th May: Happy Saturday everybody. I was looking through some of the lockdown music performances that I am happy to say are popping up all over the place. I’ve decided to share three of the day’s best finds with you this evening.
I’m starting with my favourite ukulele orchestra and a regular to this page, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Although saddened by the news of Florian Schneider’s death this week, I can’t help but think that this version of Kraftwerk’s The Model would have put a smile on his face. It did mine.
The second lockdown performance comes from that remarkable Funk Rock band from Indiana, The Main Squeeze If you like clever arrangements, superb musicianship and some of the best covers out there, check them out on YouTube. Here they are doing what they do best and joined along the way with a lot of friends. Here’s The Main Squeeze doing a lockdown version of With a Little Help From My Friends,
The Kaiser Chiefs take the closing slot tonight with a brilliant song about the lockdown, Oh My God. It’s cleverly written, had a great melody and, after the lockdown, should be released as a single. It will be a chart-topper.
My heart goes out to musicians during these restrictions and I have the utmost respect for those who found a way to carry on bringing their music to us when we need it most. Wherever we can we need to help support them. Not only by money, most of us can’t afford that, but by joining their social media platforms, liking their posts and sharing their music. Anyway, here’s the Kaiser Chiefs and the very clever Oh My God. As always, stay well, stay safe and stay sane. Happy Saturday. 😎
10 May: Sometimes it happens that you hear a track on the radio and think ‘I have to find out more about this artist’, only to find the artist has been around for nearly 20 years. This was the case when I heard Gotye’s track Somebody That I Used to Know a few weeks ago.
Gotye (Wally De Backer) is a Belgian-born Australian and unbeknown to me is regarded at one of the ‘top 50 influential Australians in the arts’ by Australian News, although he has only made three albums since his first release in 2002 under his own name.
Gotye (pronounced Gauthier) is quite an interesting character as you’ll find out over the next few posts. Apart from being a remarkable songwriter, the video that accompanies the song is a masterpiece. Here’s Somebody I Used to Know from the 2011 album Making Mirrors. Enjoy!
The more I researched Gotye the more I was intrigued. Although he had achieved critical and commercial success, he decided to head in a different direction. In a 2014 online newsletter, he claimed that there would be no more Gotye music, although he did remain a member of the band The Basics who produced six albums during and after the Gotye phenomenon. The second track from Gotye for today is from the 2006 Like Drawing Blood album. Here’s Hearts a Mess.
In 2015 Gotye developed a passion for an early synthesizer from the ‘40s, the Ondioline, of which only about ninety were ever manufactured and of which Gotye, at last report, owns eleven. Gotye became firm friends with the inventor, Jean-Jaques Perry. Of the ondioline, Gotye said, “You can dial in an incredibly wide range of sounds on the ondioline, and the unique mechanics for playing it allows you to create sounds very sensitively and with a musical deftness I just feel isn’t present on most other electronic instruments from the ’40s – or decades since.”
Gotye formed the Ondioline Orchestra and the sextet made their debut performance as a tribute to Jean-Jaques Perrey in November 2016. Perrey had planned to attend the tribute but ill health prevented it and he died at the age of 87 in May 2017. Gotye still champions the Ondioline and regularly performs with the orchestra. I am closing today’s choice with a different side of Gotye and a performance of Prélude à la Rose and Cigale (The Cicadas of Provence), a piece he dedicated to his daughter who was born in 2018.
14 May: My earlier post about Pink Floyd has kind of set the theme for this Thursday, but rather than the band, I’ve chosen a few tracks from one of my favourite artists and albums, that being Roger Waters and Amused to Death. I hadn’t listened to the whole album in a while and the tone of the album suited today’s mood perfectly.
For those non-Waters people, this is the third solo release from Roger Waters. Work on the album started in 1987 and it took several years to complete before its release in 1992. The concept of the album is that of an ape randomly switching channels on a TV. Sound odd? What emerges is one of the most powerful social and political masterpieces of modern times. On release, Allmusic described it as “a masterpiece in the sense that it brings together all of his (Waters) obsessions in one grand, but not unwieldy, package”
As the album was released with no ‘Official Videos’ I have tried to find the best of the fan videos on YouTube, and some of them are pretty quirky. Strangely, I’m starting with the closing song of the album. Why? Because it’s been one of those days! Here’s Amused to Death.
Roger Waters told Classic Rock in an interview “My view is that I’ve been involved in two absolutely classic albums – Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. However, If you haven’t got Amused to Death, you haven’t got the full set”
My second choice from Amused to Death is the track he first wrote when he started work on the album in 1987 (5 years prior to its release), Perfect Sense. It’s a dark but clever song about a world where live commentary on wars is the main form of home entertainment (hmmmm…). If you recognize the wild Scottish yelling in the track, think the teacher in The Wall. Roger reincarnated his character for this little cameo. Here’s the well-named and very apt Perfect Sense.
The final Amused to Death track for today is another powerful statement; The Bravery of Being Out of Range. I think the title says it all. This is a very special album to me that encompasses an era of great upheaval in my life. In its strange dystopian way, it got me through some very difficult times.
Maybe it made me see that there are far bigger issues than my own in the world – ergo – maybe revisiting those ‘magnum opus’ albums isn’t a bad idea at the moment! Again, this is a fan video but set to the soundtrack of a live performance and it really isn’t too bad. Thanks for indulging me this Thursday. As always, stay safe and stay sane. It’s a crazy world out there! 😎
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