Classic Albums 2 – All Over the Place (the Bangles)

In the long and sometimes arduous quest to replace my long-gone cassette collection (only a few remain) with CDs, I finally replaced my copy of All Over the Place by the Bangles. They really hit the big time with Different Light, containing hits like Manic Monday, Walk Like an Egyptian & If She Knew What She Wants, but I reckon that their first album was their best.

Anyhow, it had been a long time since I’d sat down and had a listen, so once my copy arrived I did just that. And then I played it two more times!

All Over the Place, like many debut albums, just shines. While Susanna Hoffs is widely thought of as the lead singer (and as readers of my blog know from my Classic Singers series, she is one of my favourites), all of the girls’ talents are showcased here, both vocally and musically. Vicki and Debbie Petersen crank out the tunes and do their turn on lead vocals, while Michael Steele also performs strongly although she doesn’t sing lead on this album as far as I could tell.

For me, the stand out tracks are Going Down to Liverpool (a cover of a Katrina & the Waves song that in my opinion the Bangles made their own), which was the first of their songs I came across, and Dover Beach, which is still one of my favourite Bangles songs. But there is also Tell Me, which is a delightfully upbeat song with rock-a-billy influences and a cracking good bass from Michael Steele. It’s short and sweet with loads of energy. I’d love to see it played live. The 60s inspired Restless follows – the guitar intro is a little bit 70s, but then the 60s feel kicks in (a bit of Beatles or British invasion influences perhaps?).

The album kicks off with Hero Takes a Fall; this was the first single. It combines some signature jangly guitars, great harmonies, and solid rhythm. Live comes next, a cover of the Merry-Go-Round’s song from 1967. It’s a slower easy-going composition that, for me, encapsulates the 60s vibe. It’s a real foot-tapping number. James cranks up the pace with some great guitar work. I have a soft spot for this song, it’s catchy rhythm and sunny demeanour always makes me smile.   He’s Got a Secret has a great melody, a talent of the Bangles that infuses the whole album along with the seemingly effortless harmonies. I can’t fault the musicianship – the band works as tight unit. Silent Treatment has more of a late 70s feel, almost a bit of punk (in a tender sort of way).

All About You has a meandering intro that promises something laidback before a frantic drumbeat takes hold of your feet. The album winds down with More than Meets the Eye to ease the listener out with some good strings and vocals and a reflective mood to the song.

I like this album more each time I listen to it,  especially the conspicuous lack of unnecessary production – often a problem in the 80s and since then. There is space in the music that allows the band members to show their talents and provide some honesty to the songs.

You can listen to the All Over the Place here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9y5d4gNhnk&list=PL5EA43C5AD0852574

Classic Singers 10 – Cyndi Lauper (she’s pretty amazing)

So, on to the last of my 10 classic singers. It has to be Cyndi Lauper. Like most people I first heard her in 1984 when Girls Just Wanna Have Fun roared up the charts. What an energising song it is. The album She’s So Unusual was packed with great songs – it’s still one of my favourite albums. Before she hit the big time, Cyndi as with Blue Angel – a sort of country, rock-billy band. I chose one of their songs in my 5 songs below.

So after her first album she carried on with True Colours which included the song of the same name, since recorded by zillions of other artists, as have many of her songs. And on and on from there.

Later on Cyndi Lauper branched out and recorded At Last an album of cover versions, and she has since go on to release Memphis Blues. I heard her sing on her 2011 concert in Perth on the supporting that album. I was no disappointed – I was in awe, thought she was fabulous and generally excellent. I was on a high for a while afterwards. She played the blues songs and some of her earlier hits. I really enjoyed her a-Capella version of Sally’s Pigeons. I even wrote a poem about that concert which you can find on this blog – it’s called When She Sings.

I won’t go into too much detail, because it’s all written in many places on the internet.

I could happily have picked 20 songs, it was hard to choose five. And I couldn’t – so, I chose 6 songs for Cyndi– I do like her voice a lot. She deserves an extra song!

Sally’s Pigeons – I didn’t hear this until recently, well a few years ago, but what a song, a story about childhood. I love the simplicity of the introduction – it shows how good Cyndi’s voice is. There is a lot of emotion and feeling in this, a hark back to childhood. A really beautiful song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwDnypJw3Y

All Through the Night – I first heard this on Radio one when they were reviewing new singles. I thought, ‘this is a hit.’ Not in the UK it wasn’t – at least not a major one. I was gobsmacked, but itdid better elsewhere. It is one of my favourite Cyndi Lauper songs. I just love it, and it was a treat when I heard her sing it live too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiR_X4nCSeI  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJvTgfNWzD4

Time After Time – this is a great song. I never get tired of listening to it. There is a gentleness to it that crossed the airwaves. Like All Through the Night, this is off She’s So Unusual and another reason that album is so good. This song inspired my poem When She Sings http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQY7BusJNU

I’m Gonna Be Strong – from her time with Blue Angel, Cyndi Lauper made this Gene Pitney song her own, thanks to her stellar voice. A great song, but Cyndi sings it, it just cuts right through you. I’ve chosen a video of her singing with Blue Angel – it gives me goosebumps every time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkYJCj73w24

It’s Hard To Be Me – A bit of a change of pace. I can‘t remember the movie that I first heard this song in. I’m sure it was during a movie. It’s upbeat, satirical, and made me laugh, as well as just lovin’ that voice of hers. A bit of punk influence in this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU2_P9XkYJE

At Last – The bonus 6th song! A cover version, but a great song. Cyndi Lauper shows that she can sing other styles. So laid back, so cool, so Cyndi… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhRTUbv5J_Q

So that’s it for now, although I have a couple of others in mind that I might do later on. But for now I’m going to 10 Classic Albums, starting next year.

 

Cheers

George

 

Classic Singers 9 – Sally Doherty

The voice is an instrument in itself and some people use it just so much better than others. And every now and then you come across a singer that makes you take notice, somebody with a voice that just catches you. I remember this happening when I bought Plant Funk’s album Non Zero Sumness. Three of the songs had a voice that hypnotised me with its quality. It gave me goosebumps. That voice belonged to Sally Doherty.

There aren’t many singers who can hold my attention with their voice, but she is one. I can imagine that she would be able to sing unaccompanied and still entrance an audience. I regret that I have never seen her perform, but I live on the other side of the world. If I still lived in Stafford, I’d be making a point of hearing her sing live. Such is life.

However, some research led me to discover that Sally has been singing for a while and has collaborated with many different musicians along the way. There have been albums by Sally Doherty, Sally Doherty and Paul Kilvington, Sally Doherty and the Sumacs, the Sally Doherty Quartet, and in addition to this she has sung on albums by Planet Funk, Richard Hawley, and Donald Grant among others.

She sings in a variety of styles including Latin Jazz, pop, a bit of club music, and I’m sure her voice is versatile enough to sing in many more styles. Forgive me if I haven’t got more to say, but I don’t a lot more than that. I just love listening her voice.

So, onto the 5 songs. There are a limited number of songs featuring Sally Doherty on youtube, but I have found five to link to – all excellent and varied in their styles:

1. Under the Rain – This is from Non Zero Sumness, by Planet Funk. Sally Doherty wrote the melody and lyrics as well as singing. It’s an entrancing song that is like being taken on a relaxing train ride while at the same time trying to resist the urge to get up and dance. I don’t have a lot of this style of music, but  I still play this a lot on my iPod because as a song, it’s the complete package.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxa25P29648

2. All Man’s Land – Another one from Non Zero Sumness. This is slower than Under the Rain, but almost hypnotic. It’s the verbal equivalent of having a massage. If I listen to this on a tense day at work, it brings me down to an equilibrium. I can feel my muscles de-stress.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qoqzOle-Tg

3. Historia de a Amor­ – This is one in the latin jazz style and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand Spanish, but I believe that this song title translates as something like A Love Story…but don’t quote me on that. However, I don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the voice on this. Have a listen and you’ll see what I mean. A good voice like Sally’s conveys the emotion and the ‘vibe’. You don’t need to understand the words.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYqQFIB6QJs

4. The Very Thought of You­ – Another jazzy song. Another great exhibition of singing. Another song I could listen to again and again. It’s very mellow. It’s lovely. I could go on, but I won’t.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1q4vsjN5HQ

5. Watching the Horses – This is a great combination of piano and voice, along with some strings (cello?) A slow track with rhythm is almost like a swell washing up on the shore. Not sure what style I’d call this, but it’s a little bit folky, perhaps?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHMBrz1iDrE

 

If you want to find out more about Sally, her website is www.sallydoherty.com

One more Classic Singer to go, before I get into some albums. Who will it be?

Classic Singers 8 – Mark Knopfler

So, people of my vintage will know Mark Knopfler, he is best known as lead singer of Dire Straits, for a time the biggest band in the world. In 1978 Sultans of Swing sent them into the Top 10 in the UK charts and the album Dire Straits followed suit. The next album Communique didn’t produce any hit singles but made No 5 in the charts. I think this is a great album. What followed after this were more hit albums Making Movies, Love Over Gold (reached No. 1), the live album Alchemy, and then the monster, Brothers in Arms. These albums brought in more sophisticated production and contained some of the more well-known tracks like Romeo and Juliet, Tunnel of Love, Private Investigations, Brothers in Arms and Walk of Life. A little known EP was also released in 1983 called ExtendedancEPlay which contained Twisting by the Pool. This contains one of my favourite tracks, more of that later.

Mark Knopfler then went on to the Notting Hillbillies, a country/folk band and released an album Missing, Presumed Having a Good Time. I like this album, it’s gentle on the ears and very laid back. I even did a rendition of the track Working on the Railroad when called upon to sing by the locals on a trip through Mongolia. It was easy to remember! He also composed soundtracks for the films Local Hero and Cal. He also wrote Private Dancer¸ a hit for Tina Turner.

After a brief resurrection of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler went solo with his first album Golden Heart  in 1996, and has been going ever since, working with numerous artists including EmmyLou Harris, with whom he collaborated on the album All the Roadrunning. I am a real fan of some of his solo work, as he tell stories in the songs – and Mark Knopfler’s song writing has always been thoughtful and of good quality. Sometimes I don’t think he gets enough recognition for that.

Anyhow, onto the songs. I struggled to choose only five, as usual, and they’r probably not the ones you’d expect, but here goes:

1.  Follow Me Home, from Communique is one of my favourites. It has a lovely beach feel to it. It ebbs and flows like waves washing along the shore. The sultry feel of a Caribbean island infuses the sound. I can feel the humidity, the sensuality. And why wouldn’t it, it was recorded in the Caribbean at Nassau in the Bahamas which probably influenced the ‘vibe’. It’s a little bit dark too and strangely hypnotic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhOPK3KVP0g

2. Badges, Posters, Stickers & T-shirts. What? I hear you ask. Well this was off the ExtendedanceEPlay EP. I love it. It’s a jazzy song and was the b-side of Private Investigations in the UK. I don’t think Mark Knopfler has done anything else like this, and that is a shame. The foot-tapping insistence of this track just takes you along with some great piano and drums to complete the jazz feel.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SwfTlQAVhs

3.  Private Investigations – If you ever want a soundtrack for reading Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane novels, this is it. It was a big hit in the UK (No. 2) in 1982; the downtrodden, underpaid, private eye comes through in spades. The guitar work is sublime. It’s dark, brooding, and there’s a feeling of futility in the lyrics heading towards a lose-lose result for the investigator and all involved, but that doesn’t matter; there are always expenses to claim and some whisky to drink. It makes me think of Phillip Marlowe. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxS-ICzjO6I

4. 5:15am  – this is from 2004 off Shangri-la, one of Mark Knopfler’s solo albums. It’s a great story, set in the 1960s about a chancer who is found dead in his car one morning. It is not, perhaps, as complex  musically as some of MKs work, but I love the story-telling, something that he has done more of in his solo career. I also think that this song brings out his voice better than voice than many other songs. For me, this is a song that flows along smoothly and is a pleasure to listen to.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnrPq6ejZmg

5. Monteleone –  This is a gentle song off the album Get Lucky (2009) that had me with the use of strings in the intro. It’s all about making a mandolin, a story of woodworking that brings out the love the instrument-maker has for his craft. Not a lot more to say, but it’s a smooth, and soothing ride; the sort of song that makes you stop what you are doing to listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFKGtCfc6cQ

Classic Singers 7 – Debbie Harry

I had to change tack on this one. My shortlist of excellent songs just got way too long. I listened to all the albums, reacquainting myself with Auto American and The Hunter along the way. I hadn’t listened to much Blondie for years and I realised what I had been missing. In my youth I sought out the complete back catalogue, so enamoured was I with the music. And it is an awesome collection of classy music. Even the sometimes maligned Auto-American album, which dips into a bit of jazzy slow ballads, just resonates.

The album that really got me thinking and going through my back catalogue was the sublime Parallel lines. I don’t think there is a mediocre track on it – just great songs that combine melody, lyrics, and awesome musicianship with Debbie’s voice. I mean Fade Away and Radiate, Hanging on the Telephone, Pretty Baby – and the rest.  I hate to hark back, but I can’t really equate Debbie Harry’s recent work with this, even the single Maria, which I really enjoyed.

I always thought there was a tension with Blondie between a desire to play old-style rock’n’roll and moving into contemporary punk –inspired theme of the time. If you take a listen their debut album, Blondie, you’ll hear a touch of reggae (almost) in Man Overboard. This confluence of styles is, in my opinion,  what made them what they were. An awesome sounding band with a really talented singer and a distinctive sound. I love her to bits!

To summarise where I got to. There were way too many standout songs for me to whittle down to five (and I’m not going to list them – too many), so I decided to take a different route. I have chosen five songs that I think are not as widely known but for me still resonate with class and melody – and that great voice. And let’s not forget the rest of the band as musicians.

So, the songs

Scenery – a demo recorded in 1976 originally, and I think included on the album Plastic Letters (at least subsequent releases after the original). This is a great 60s feel to it. Might even have been a b-side although this appears to be contradicted by some sources (in those days when we all went and bought vinyl singles – I do miss those days). I wouldn’t mind seeing what Sid’n’Susie made of this one – I think Susanna Hoff’s voice would work well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMpERuVmG7A

11:59 – perhaps not the best known song off Parallel Lines, but my favourite. There is a great sense of desperation here – a race against the clock. But Debbie Harry’s voice is perfect for this song and the classic 70s synthesiser makes a good breakdown point at the end of verse two. The drumming is sublime too. It just rocks.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A62VPyfRrY

I Didn’t Have the Nerve To Say No – This is from Plastic Letters, the second Blondie album. I’m not sure how I’d describe this style. It’s a sort of hybrid with 50s & 60s rock and pop with a great little guitar part and some 70s synthesiser.  I love listening to this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADMReZ3Wio0

Accidents Never Happen  – off Eat to the Beat, released in 1980. A great song and a good live performance to go with it. There is a dark undertone to this track and some excellent guitar work and drums (I love listening to Clem Burke’s drumming).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p4DGOfddpg

I’m Not Living in the Real World  – this was also off the album Eat to the Beat and has more than a smidgeon of punk in it and rocks along nicely. The clip I have included shows the whole band. I am still tapping my feet as I type this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5dSHe5UK44

So, there you go. Have a listen and see what you think. Next up…who knows…maybe a bloke, maybe not.

George

Classic Singers 6 – Elvis Costello

Okay…let’s talk about Elvis Costello; the man writes a great song. He hit the headlines first with his album My Aim IS True which spawned such sings as Alison and Less Than Zero. Watching the Detectives was on the US release of this album. His visual style and rather unique voice were immediately recognisable. This was 1977 and he was competing with punk and heavy metal – and disco. But he has an ear for lyrics and a good melody; he consequently sold well.

The next album was This Year’s Model  which included such classics as Pump It Up and I don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea. It reached No. 4 on the UK charts. His next album did even better with Armed Forces reaching No 2.  This album had Oliver’s Army on it, which became an international hit. He followed it with Get Happy, another No.2 on the album charts in the UK. This was a more soulful album This was, in my opinion, the peak time for Elvis Costello, and he also produced The Specials first album. He also wrote the song Shipbuilding which Robert Wyatt released in 1982.

He went on with various band changes, releasing an album of country songs (Almost Blue), having more hits such as Every Day I Write the Book and is still singing now.  In 2002 he released the single Tear Off Your Own Head, It’s a Doll Revolution, subsequently covered by the Bangles on their album Doll Revolution. As sacrilegious as it sounds, I prefer the Bangles version (sorry Elvis). Elvis Costello still tours, records and performs. And so he should. The man has built a great portfolio of music.

The songs

Pump It Up This is an awesome piece of pop with a punk / ska influence released in 1977. It is possibly my favourite Elvis Costello song. The guitar riff and excellent backing band (The Attractions) make this an instant toe-tapper. There is no over-production and it just rocks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpprOGsLWUo

She – This was part of the Notting Hill soundtrack – and is a ballad covered by Elvis Costello that shows his abilities in a different style of music. It is a laid back song that starts with a piano and his voice (and some quiet strings). In my opinion this song that really shows Elvis Costello’s voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O040xuq2FR0

Veroncia – co-written with Elvis Costello, this is pure pop released in 1989. I recall hearing this while I was at university in Plymouth.  Perhaps these guys should write more together. The horn part in this also makes a great contribution and is quite reminiscent of the Beatles at times. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zifeVbK8b-g

Watching the Detectives  –  being a bit of a sucker for ska and ska influenced music, I love this song. It was one of his earlier ones, and captures the genre with his own quirky influence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO_sDtI2bYk

Oliver’s Army – I can’t not include this song. The overall package makes it, perhaps, one of the stand out singles for the late 70s. The melody is great, the lyrics, a bit of satire, and the performance fantastic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow1S4DJtLOk

Classic Singers 5 – Pat Benatar

So, we’re onto number 5, and it’s Pat Benatar. She was seen as the quintessential rock-chick in the 80s. But she is so much more. I first heard her music when I was in the bath in Perth on a Sunday night listening to Casey Kasem counting down the American Top 40 and he played Shadows of the Night. It was awesome!

Next time I heard her was in about 1983 when Tropico came out and the single We Belong was released. After that was Love is A Battlefield – one of the iconic tracks of the early 80s and MTV. For me, her first album, In the Heat of the Night (1979), may well be her best, but I also really like Seven the Hard Way (1985) and Wide Awake in Dreamland (1988). She also released an album, True Love, which was a collection of covers of slower jazzy songs.

Now, when I went about picking 5 songs that I think really show her voice people may think of rock songs, but I don’t. Pat Benatar has an absolutely gorgeous voice and the songs that really show it off are not those ‘rock-chick’ songs. Don’t get me wrong, I do like them. Songs like Invincible, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Heartbreaker, All Fired Up etc. But I’ve chosen a different direction to take. I was tempted to include In the Heat of the Night, with its moody sleazy feel, but alas I found no place for it. And lastly, let’s not overlook the contribution that Neil Giraldo has made – great guitarist and songwriter.

Here they are:

1. Don’t Let It Show – this is off In the Heat of the Night and is a brilliant showcase for Pat Benatar’s voice. It is a simple song about heartbreak, but it hits home because of her great voice and fantastic high notes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0Us5P_nNrI

2. Walking in the Underground – Off Seven the Hard Way, this has a jazzy feel to it with an intro from a muted trumpet. This is mellow and yells solitude. It builds into some great guitar work and drums. The production is very 80s, but I kind of like that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQAfm9_RUrw

3. My Clone Sleeps Alone – one out of the blue, perhaps, as it is not necessarily that well known. But this song is awesome from its piano intro and Pat singing over it. It is such a simple intro that hides nothing. There would be no place for an inferior voice to hide – good job Pat Benatar has such a great voice. A bit of a sci-fi feel to the lyrics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nNNvB3KFFI

4. Bloodshot Eyes – Off the True Love album. This a great little song that is upbeat and a real foot-tapper. It shows a different side to Pat Benatar that might be to the taste of her hardcore rock fans, but she pulls it off and shows her class as a singer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tosx8fXTHQI

5. Shadows of the Night – This is the only rock song I have included in this collection of five. This was the first song of hers that I heard and it still resonates with me. It is pop-rock at its best. It starts with Pat singing without accompaniment and then hits the classic 80s keyboards. I play this at full volume and glory in the voice. The video is a bit corny though. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZInRE-KryGA

So there you have it. I’m not sure what’s next on the list, but following the boy, girl, boy, girl pattern I am looking back at Elvis Costello. So perhaps I’ll have to Pump It Up! Yeah, bad joke, I know, but that’s all I’ve got.

See you for the next exciting installment of Classic Singers

George

%d bloggers like this: